Americans are obsessed with weight loss. From diet plans to the latest fad exercise, many folks will go to any extreme to shed unwanted pounds.

But there are also many people who struggle to gain weight. And they face similar daily challenges in terms of public scrutiny and finding healthy ways to put on pounds. After all, why would someone want to gain weight? Most Americans would give anything to be able to lose weight, so it might be difficult to understand the needs of someone who is actively trying to increase the numbers on the scale. But illness, lack of appetite, building muscle for sports, and good old skinny genetics are all solid reasons why someone might need to or want to gain weight.

So how hard can it be to gain a few pounds? Can't you just hit the all-you-eat buffet or supersize your lunches? Not if you want to stay healthy while you add pounds.

The key, say health experts, is to focus on healthy foods while you increase your caloric intake. Look for foods that are not only calorie-rich but also nutrient-rich. Dairy products, eggs, nuts, and lean meats are all good sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals that can add some calories to your day. If you're an athlete looking to gain weight, you will also want to focus on the amount of protein in the foods that you eat. This — along with a healthy strength training exercise routine — will ensure that the weight that you gain gets converted to muscle, rather than fat.

It's also a good idea to eat several healthy meals and mini-meals throughout the day. This is especially good for folks who can't tolerate eating very much at any one meal. Just try to ensure that most of your meals and snacks contain a good balance of protein, grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Another good way to gain weight is weight training. Depending upon your situation, weight lifting might help you to build muscle which can add numbers to the scale.

Talk to your health care provider if you think you are underweight to come up with a weight-gaining plan that will work best for you.

How to gain weight the healthy way
Need to gain a few pounds? Put down the potato chips and check out these tips to keep you healthy while you put on pounds.