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Calorie-Dense Food: Ideas needed. Help!!

Some of you know that I've been charged with giving good care to a sick family member and have helped me hugely in food and dietary arenas, so I'm counting on y'all to help me out with this one. His doctors have recommended a calorie-dense diet. Now, this doesn't mean I can offer him nothing but fatty/sugary/nutritionally empty foods, but it does mean that I have to up the caloric value of the reasonably healthy diet he already works around. Some things that have worked are: puddings made with heavy cream; scalloped/mashed potatoes likewise, and I'll certainly try it with mac and cheese too. Does anyone have any other ideas for things to add, things to make, things to do with this situation? Thanking you all in advance in a really heartfelt way.
Oh - and I should mention this so that nobody takes time out to do it - we've already received a huge amt. of advice re: portion control and making things he loves, so my specific intent is just to ask for ideas about making foods with a higher caloric content. Thanks again.

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  1. I have a few suggestions, generally very high in carbs and/or protein...

    Firstly, on some special occasions, my dad will make jerk chicken (sometimes over an open fire... AH!) and then he'll make some rice with some spices, refried beans (yeah, not that authentic, but so good) and he'll buy some naan bread. It's an amazing meal, and very, very dense.

    You could make a big batch of butter chicken or beef vindaloo, then have loads of rice and naan to go with it. Another extremely dense meal... very satisfying.

    There's always lasagna and garlic bread

    Along the same vein, there's moussaka (which I happen to love, but it's not everybody's favourite...)

    Again along that vein, there's enchiladas... very dense, very tasty!

    Now this is unhealthy, but typical southern food is very good at delivering LOTS of calories... Fried Chicken, Mashed potatoes, Coleslaw, Biscuits...

    also, here's a thread where I talk about a meal I made a few days ago, which would also be very good for this... calorie dense, not THAT unhealthy :) http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/783478

    1 Reply
    1. re: banjoman2375

      These are very nice, banjoman. You gave me some ideas about adding to certain recipes, e.g. if I do a lasagna, I can make the bechamel with cream as opposed to milk. I have a feeling I'm going to need to do some portioning set-asides, because that's not something that WE could eat regularly, but my son certainly can have things like that whenever. You got me thinking about creamed soups, too: I usually use 2% in ours, but I could certainly do a portion with some heavy cream. And with the Indian-spiced dishes, which he really loves, I can down the spice factor, again by incorporating heavy cream or paneer or something. Thank you very much. Oh, and re: the Southern cooking? I'm a regional cooking FREEEEK, and Southern's my favorite American cuisine to cook from. Thank you.

    2. Also, Beef Short Ribs with Risotto

      1. Any nut butters are high in calories and offer good fats if he can eat nut butters.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Val

          Love the nut butters, which he can certainly have. And for some reason your mention of good fats got me thinking avocadoes, which he loves - I saw a recipe for a "reverse" taquito: filled with guacamole, sauced with a not-hot chile meat sauce. I think I could manage maybe one of those, but I bet he could do more than that.

          1. re: mamachef

            heck yes, bring on the avocados...can't believe I didn't think of those right away...nom nom!

            1. re: Val

              Avocado is known as "poor man's butter" in Haiti. Just spread it right on a toasted English muffin.

              1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                Shows you tropical vs. temperate lands (considering the cost of avocados in most of the US). But this is the most-frequent way I eat avocados, plus a sprinkle of salt. For me, a Trader Joe's multigrain EM, sometimes spread first with Dijon mustard. If you want to add protein (and weight--building fat), melt cheese on the EM before adding avocado. Pepper jack is nice w/avo.

            2. re: mamachef

              Avocado milkshakes/smoothies come to mind as well, mama. You're a saint, did I ever tell you that? ;)

                1. re: buttertart

                  Hah, if you could hear me in my mind while I'm being all saintly you wouldn't think that. But thanks for the nice words. It's just a matter of doing what needs done, right?
                  I think you ladies are pretty goshdarn awesome yourselves.

          2. Hi mamachef,
            My grandmother has pancreatic cancer and we are facing a similar challenge of making the food she eats as calorie dense as possible (because she often doesn't have much of an appetite). Cream soups (broccoli cheese, asparagus, etc.), bread puddings/baked french toast (lots of eggs and cream and you can vary the flavors and make it savory), and baked pasta dishes (loaded with extra full-fat cheeses and various veggies) have gone over pretty well. Does he like avocados? Those (much to my chagrin) are pretty calorie dense. I'll think of some of the other things we've been whipping up and add to the list. Thanks for creating this thread!

            4 Replies
            1. re: arp29

              Awesome, and thank you so much for responding to it, everyone!

              1. re: arp29

                Those the the things I thought about, too, since my FIL went through chemo last year and needed calorie/nutrient dense foods. I tended to use more egg yolks than whites, cream instead of milk, heavier cheese. Nuts/nut butter, avocados. And, since it's easier to drink more calories, milk shakes and smoothies (and doctor recommended Ensure).

                All the best to your grandmother.

                1. re: chowser

                  Chowser, re: the Ensure, we've actually made milkshakes using it as the base 'cause the kid won't go NEAR the stuff en plein. Talk about calories!

                  1. re: mamachef

                    We do this, too! My grandmother loves it!

                    Thanks, Chowser:-)

                    Just remembered another one...quiche!

              2. I volunteer at a charity that does sort of meals-on-wheels for people needing calorie-dense foods, and one thing I've noticed about the menus is that they combine lots of elements together that people on a more calorie-balanced diet would tend to avoid. Cram it all in, basically!

                So this week we're doing a light (ha!) meal of greek salad with tuna, which will have a big dollop of canned tuna with full-fat mayo, full-fat greek cheese, chickpeas and a buttered pita. Light on the lettuce/tomato.

                We also tend to do a lot of African-inspired stews that use lamb or goat, peanuts/groundnuts/peanut butter, and sweet potatoes or some kind of bean in the stew, with yams or cassava or sweet pot on the side AND rice. Also a Caribbean-inspired one with chicken, sugar, peanut butter, pigeon peas and similar side dishes. There's not loads of PB in the dishes but I guess it has more calories than a stock cube!

                I'd hazard a guess that scrambled eggs with extra yolks, made with butter and cream, would provide quite a calorie hit too. Maybe with wholewheat toast for some attempt at health!

                3 Replies
                1. re: gembellina

                  Love these ideas, you truly are a gem.

                  1. re: mamachef


                    Also, cheesecake. Because sometimes only sweet stuff will do.

                2. Pasta...anyway you slice it ~~~ Mac & Cheese is a vegetable ya know....Paired with Chied Fricken, field peas and cornbread with cold slices of Vidalia onions...Yum! Sweet tea to wash it down.

                  1. There are some great ideas on this list! From some of your responses, it sounds like you may also be looking for ways to have the added calories for the person that needs it without overloading the rest of the family. That definitely adds to the challenge

                    A few more suggestions:
                    -Pad Thai (has the added calories from peanut butter, eggs and peanut garnish); those wanting to curb calories could eat more of the protein in the dish (chicken, shrimp, tofu) and less of the noodles and eggs.
                    -Baked potatoes - leave as is with a few toppings to choose from; for high-calorie, make a quick twice baked potato mashing the filling with cream, sour cream and cheese and melt cheese on top
                    -Pastitsio - Can't be cut back for others but this is a delicious, calorie-packed dish.
                    -Taco - since this is a build your own dish, it is easy to customize. By adding guacamole, sour cream, and cheese you can up the calorie ante.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: traceykl

                      tracykl, you nailed what I couldn't find the proper words to say, about plumping HIS calorie count without needing to purchase an extra house for all our butts. And the pastitsio is inspired; I can think of a million ways to load it up, and the sides could be terrifically, horribly caloric too: greek salad with a ton of feta; buttered flatbreads per gembellina, etc. Granted, this is one cheese-y meal, but wow.Tthis, my friends, is what I love about Chowhound - sometimes other people do my very best thinking for me, when I'm fresh out. And it is, by-and-large, a very compassionate and generous community of people.

                      1. re: mamachef

                        Sorry mamachef, I didn't realise you were eating it too - this thread from a while back might help http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/759206

                        1. re: gembellina

                          Don't apologize, gembellina. For the most part, I don't like doing the short-order deal and I do prepare one meal unless it's just impossible. And re the calorie part, I was being a tiny bit facetious, which is hard to read here; my husband and I are quite fortunate not to have to worry about that, though cholesterol is certainly a factor, which is why I'd need to watch the cream and suchlike. Your suggestions were great, and the threads and site as well - thank you for taking time out to answer me!

                      2. re: traceykl

                        +1 on tacos. Well-marbled beef and avocado in a fried corn tortilla is delicious and very calorie-dense.

                      3. Just a couple of things to add. For anything creamy (mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, etc), adding a big hunk of cream cheese just makes it creamier and denser in calories (sadly for me, since I consider cream cheese to be a major food group but do NOT need the calories). Also, a proper British roast dinner (roast beef, pork or lamb, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, gravy, veg) packs a lot of calories and can be very appealing. All the best to you and your family member.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: GretchenS

                          Thank you Gretchen, from all of us. Re cream cheese, if you see the last post I made, another friend just made the cream cheese suggestion, which I LOVE. I too consider it a major food group all by itself. And the richness and tang it brought to mind - I could also stir a good spoonful into stroganov, or really anything with a tangy creamy sauce.

                          1. re: mamachef

                            Omigosh, it's as though you can see into my kitchen -- you are oh so correct, a bit (or a lot) of cream cheese can be stirred into so many things... creamed spinach, pasta carbonara, cannelloni, pasta alfredo, creamy seafood dishes ... I am gaining weight just thinking about it!

                            1. re: GretchenS

                              Oh heck yes, on everything but especially the spinach. I can taste it.

                        2. Nuts! Really healthy fat and calorie dense, and you can grind them and add to many dishes to enhance calories and flavor.

                          1. peanut noodles w satay-style grilled meats, smoothies made with ice cream, whole milk and full fat yogurt; chicken with cream sauce (sorry, i have been on another one of my tarragon chicken jags), baked pasta w cheese/lasagna/moussaka, good ol' tuna/egg/ham salad with real full fat mayo on greens/in sandwich/on toast points, cream soups, eggs or veg with hollandaise sauce, a snack platter with buttery crackers, cheddars and spreadable cheeses and summer sausage; marrow bones, pate, nice grilled oily fish like mackerel, or butter baked white fish like cod, throw in almonds, peanuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts to prepared veg & salad whenever possible. sweet and savory french toast variations. good old fashioned sweet potato preparations, including maple-pecan baked, praline baked, candied; creamed spinach (etc), shepherd's/cottage/chix pot pies. bread or nut-crusted meats, skin on poultry, use duck rather than chx, fattier cuts of beef, heirloom (fattier) pork rather than modern factory farm/supermarket.

                            peanut butter choc chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, fruit pies and crisps a la mode, sweet bread puddings, date bars.

                            don't worry too much about your relative's eating more dessert-y things than what we tend to think of as "real food." my grandma invited me over for lunch when i was on a break from college-- "lunch" was a little saucer with exactly 6 green grapes, 2 crackers with cheese, and an achingly oversweet petit-four. needless to say i was very alarmed (and ravenous!) after this meal and she moved in with my mother and father shortly after that. she was #72 when she died. every calorie surely counts when your meal weighs 4 oz! all the best to you and your family's health.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: soupkitten

                              This is great, and i especially love the nut-crusted meats and fishes....plus, excellent observation on the quantity issue.

                            2. Pecan pie


                              Meat pies

                              Beef Wellington

                              Seafood chowder (cream based)


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Chowders: good, and he also digs chicken and corn which make a good chowder that I'm thinking I'd top off with some crunchy bacon bits, just for giggles....

                              2. Hi Mama!

                                Such wonderful suggestions! Forgive me if this is a big "duh", but just some oil can be added in to bump calories.....and depending on the type, some wonderful flavors! Really fruity extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil, almond oil, chili oil- excellent to swirl into soups, mix into breadcrumb toppings, use to make a vinaigrette, stir into dips.....just generally enhance flavor of whatever you're making!

                                Sending warmest best wishes.....

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: 4Snisl

                                  Really, 4snisl, people have been more than kind and generous about this. You included. The olive oil dip's a good idea, 'cause he loves French bread - we have a farmer's market that sells several varieties of those: parmesan, garlic basil, tomato fennel - all so good. Excellent call.

                                2. Fat(oil,cream,nuts,avacado,butter etc) -gram to gram has the densest calories-more than twice as many as carbs and protein. So if you can add that in some way to something you know the person likes and can tolerate, you will increase calories. Sounds like you're doing a great job on what can be a difficult task.

                                  Protein 4 cal/gm
                                  Fat 9 cal/gm
                                  Carbohydrate 4 /cal/gm

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: wekick

                                    This is incredibly useful. thank you so much for posting.

                                  2. My take is...when you don't feel like eating, something with big flavor pow is just revolting. I only speak from the experience of having horrible morning sickness and crying at times because I was SOOOO hungry on one level but the thought of most everything made me gag. So, my suggestion is to keep around some simple butter shortbread cookies, either sweet or savory, but simple (pistachio cranberry shortbread sounds great to me now but for months I subsisted on wheat thins because they were so bland but packed in some calories). You could use whole wheat pastry flour for nutrition if you must. For some reason, the dryness was important too. Anything goopy (my hubsband tried so hard to make cheesy scrambled eggs, etc...) was just yuck to me. Ginger ale and wheat thins, thank you.
                                    p.s. I did take a multivitamin and my babies turned out just fine...sounds like this is a different kind of situation and maybe your family member's taste has not taken the same turn that mine did?
                                    May the force be with you!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: amyamelia

                                      I'm glad your babies are fine and well. It's truly amazing, how we worry and how strong they truly are - the law of nature does say baby will take what baby needs....but boy, does it take it outta momma!
                                      These are good ideas for the funky days, and we do have them only thankfully not as frequently since he no longer takes chemotherapy. They do happen, though; and I like the butter cookies, etc: easy to eat, fairly bland, but will line the stomach; absorb some acids; stop the pangs.
                                      : )

                                    2. You can pack a lot of calories into between meal snacks without affecting everyone's diet. Eggnogs and custards pack a wallop (heating the eggs or using pasteurized eggs in the eggnog if raw is a concern). Nogs and custards can go down well if there is an appetite problem.
                                      How about nutella? Even more calories than nut butters.
                                      Best of luck!

                                      1. rice pudding made with coconut milk goes down very easy.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: magiesmom

                                          I could even make it with coco milk and just a touch of sugar, then stir in some coconut cream to sweeten it a bit more - aren't fat calories more dense than sugar calories? NIce idea!

                                        2. Creme brulee. Baked brie with a puff pastry crust.

                                          1. I have an autoimmune disease that causes weight loss (75 lbs in 6 months at one point, but I was overweight before) and poor appetite/nausea so I also have to eat a lot of calorie dense healthy foods now. I also live alone so I'm the only cook in this house. :) I'm on an anti-inflammatory diet at the same time to help keep my immune system in check, so almost everything I make is homemade and has to be reasonably healthy too. I don't fully agree with a lot of the suggestions here, while they're delicious to you they might not be all that appetizing to someone who is really struggling to eat.

                                            I love the suggestions for avocados, I would also suggest avocados in smoothies! I just make them with avocado, full fat vanilla yogurt, honey and ice cubes. It sounds like it would not be appetizing but it has a great texture like a thick milkshake. if you add cocoa powder, which is also very healthy, it tastes kind of like a nice chocolate milkshake but you can also add frozen fruit or anything else you want. I also find that most of the time I can eat or drink COLD foods (like smoothies and ice cream) even on my worst days when I really don't want to choke anything down. Full fat yogurt is also great.

                                            I guess anything liquid and mostly smooth, like soup, also seems less intimidating to me if i don't want to eat so I make a lot of creamy vegetable soups with cream and potatoes for added calories. You can make an almost endless variety and most of them also taste good cold with a dollop of full fat yogurt. I also like almost the complete opposite on bad days, crunchy and dry foods with a bit of salt like crackers, toast, etc.

                                            Personally, I mostly prefer foods with strong flavours, appealing textures and smells to wake my appetite up a bit. I know some people with poor appetite are the opposite, and prefer bland foods, so I think it's probably a good idea to check with your family member to find out which foods are easiest for him to get down.

                                            1. As a lifetime dieter, I have loved reading this thread. I will post my most favorite caloric dense meal. Note, the tortillas are dipped in WHIPPING CREAM. LOL

                                              Enchiladas Suizas

                                              • 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
                                              • 1/2 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
                                              • 1 (7 ounce) can prepared green chile salsa
                                              • 1/2 teaspoon salt
                                              • 2 cups whipping cream
                                              • oil for frying
                                              • 12 corn tortillas
                                              • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
                                              1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
                                              2. In a bowl, mix together chicken, chilies, and salsa.
                                              3. In a wide, shallow dish stir together salt and whipping cream.
                                              4. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Fry each tortilla for a few seconds, until it blisters, and immediately dip into cream and salt.
                                              5. Fill fried tortillas with chicken mixture. Roll and place flap side down in a baking dish. Pour remaining cream over tortillas, and sprinkle with cheese.
                                              6. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated oven until cheese has melted, about 15 to 20 minutes.

                                              El Charro Refried Beans

                                              4 Cups pinto beans -- cooked & mashed
                                              12 Ounces evaporated milk
                                              2 Tablespoons shortening -- melted
                                              1/2 Pound cheddar cheese -- shredded
                                              Salsa De Chile Colorado

                                              Mash beans in skillet and add hot oil. Mix well. Stir in evaporated miklk.

                                              GRAPE SALAD
                                              3 lbs seedless grapes (red or green or a combination)
                                              1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
                                              8 oz sour cream
                                              8 oz cream cheese (softened)
                                              1 tsp vanilla
                                              1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
                                              1/2 - 1 cup light brown sugar (adjust to taste)

                                              Wash and stem grapes; drain. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, sour cream, cream cheese, and vanilla till smooth. Pour over grapes; mix till thoroughly combined. In separate bowl, mix nuts and brown sugar together. (I use the maximum amount of brown sugar, because I love the mix of the flavor with the sweet/sour of the grapes.) Pour grape mixture into serving dish; sprinkle top with sugar and nut mixture. Chill and serve. This recipe makes a very large portion (suitable for a family gathering of 20 or possibly more, depending on appetites). Recipe may be halved. Keeps well in refrigerator for several days (if it lasts that long).

                                              Warning: This stuff is addictive!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: laliz

                                                Oy Vay, laliz. We'd eat EVERY single thing here and do so very happily. I don't even want to consider the calorie count. Whipping cream. Evap. milk. Those enchiladas, OMG. Never, ever did I think of whipping cream for those, and I have made a great many enchiladas suizas in my lifetime. Thank you so much; this is beautiful!

                                              2. To everyone who suggested incorporating avocado into smoothies, thanks so much! I did make them today, with avocado, super-premium vanilla bean ice cream, and a decent piece of cream cheese. They taste like cheesecake but super mellow. My son's polished off two and a half fairly large cups, my husband's working on his second, and I'm basically licking at a juice cup full - not all of us can do this on a regular basis!

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: mamachef

                                                  When my dad was going through radiation for throat cancer last year, he could hardly get any food down (and eventually went on a feeding tube for several months). But before and after the tube, my mom and sister and I tried to get any calorie-dense foods into his very sore mouth that we could.

                                                  We found that too much heavy cream and butter made him feel lethargic and sick, so we went for other fattening, nutrient-rich foods, like coconut milk.

                                                  We made "cream of broccoli" soup with coconut milk, and added coconut milk to his morning smoothies. (We sometimes added coconut oil, too, just for an extra punch of fat.) It's so delicious in curries, too.

                                                  I'll second what everyone else says about avocados and nuts, which also are so calorie-dense but not artery-clogging! If you get sick of eating them plain, there are some great recipes for "chocolate mousse" made with avocado, and almond cake is one of my favorite desserts.

                                                  Also, salads with nice oils in the dressings (avocado oil, pumpkin seed oil) and goat cheese can be calorie dense without being too heavy.

                                                  Have you used tahini much? Blending it with lemon and garlic makes a delicious tangy sauce for vegetables, or you can blend it with chickpeas for nice hummus.

                                                  Hope this is helpful - and best of luck to you and your family!

                                                  1. re: icecreamgal

                                                    This is a great post, I totally forgot about coconut milk, and it is fantastic for healthy calories. I haven't tried it in my smoothies yet but I will definitely be picking up some cans of it now. :)

                                                  2. re: mamachef

                                                    WOW cheesecake shake! :) That sounds great.

                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                      I nursed a friend of mine who had Cystic Fibrosis for a few months before his death, and one thing he loved was those kind of milkshakes. I'd suggest adding some carnation instant breakfast powder and/or chocolate syrup if you want to add even MORE calories.

                                                      Another great thing was cheese soups, which are really easy to eat and delicious and high calorie as heck. I once made this cheesy soup with those deep-fried noodles from Ramen, and it was great! Sounds weird, but it was received well.

                                                    2. Chiming in a little late, but doing it anyway!

                                                      My older son had palate repair surgery (for a cleft) when he was a toddler. I front-loaded him with extra calories by drizzling olive oil on almost every savory item (esp. veggies, which he loved) and by stirring almond butter into his oatmeal and other sweet-ish foods. FYI the best prices I've seen on almond butter are Trader joe's and Costco, much cheaper than Whole Foods or our local grocery store.

                                                      My hubby was a teenaged cancer patient and lived off of Carnation Instant Brekfast while he was on chemo - cheaper than Ensure and easy to add to smoothies, etc.

                                                      1. I don't have much more to offer than these excellent posts. But I want to mention that bagels are really calorically dense. This is a food that I can no longer eat, but have always loved. An egg on a warm bagel half is divine.

                                                        And, if no one else has mentioned, risotto, well there are some serious calories in that.

                                                        God bless you for taking care of your family member.

                                                        1. you already have so many wonderful suggestions, so i'm going to try not to duplicate, but if i do, don't shoot me :) you are a kind person, mamachef.

                                                          stuffed twice baked potatoes - yours do as you like, of course you can add cream cheese, butter, bacon, cheese, etc. to his

                                                          pie crusts - add extra ground nuts to these, savory or sweet

                                                          crispy polenta squares - fry his in extra coating and butter, bake yours if you prefer

                                                          beyond risotto, arancini

                                                          shepherd's pie... make his with heavier ingredients

                                                          fish and chips - fry his, bake yours

                                                          bangers and mash - make his with higher fat ingreds

                                                          french onion soup - more bread and cheese for him

                                                          croque monsieur/madame - fry/bake

                                                          stuffed zucchini or eggplant - add barley, cheese, etc.

                                                          add some condensed milk to smoothies

                                                          add dried fruit to oatmeal made with cream or weight gain tropical oatmeal :) http://caloriecount.about.com/weight-...

                                                          i wish you and your family all the best.

                                                          1. Go to a place like GNC and pick up some weight-gainer powder.

                                                            1. Avocado Pie.

                                                              Basically mashed avocados, heavy cream, sour cream and sweetened condensed milk, all held together on a graham cracker crust.