40 + High Calorie Vegetarian Foods! Dietitian Approved

As a Registered Dietitian for over a decade, I commonly get asked, what are the best healthy high calorie vegetarian foods? I’ve been asked enough that I felt it was time to put a list together!

For elderly vegetarians, maintaining a diet that’s both high in calories and rich in nutrients is important for weight and muscle maintenance. As metabolism naturally slows with age, it becomes even more important to focus on calorie-dense foods that are also packed with vitamins and minerals.

Incorporating high calorie vegetarian foods into the diet of an elderly individual doesn’t have to be complicated. By focusing on whole, nutrient-dense options, it’s possible to enjoy a variety of flavors and textures while also meeting dietary needs.

From the creamy richness of avocados to the hearty substance of legumes, this article will guide you through the best choices for a balanced and fulfilling vegetarian diet.

high calorie vegetarian foods in a heart shaped bowl.

Summary of 40 High Calorie Vegetarian Foods!

Food ItemServing SizeCalorie Content
Avocado1 medium (200g)322 calories
Quinoa1 cup cooked222 calories
Almonds1 ounce (28g)164 calories
Walnuts1 ounce (28g)185 calories
Cashews1 ounce (28g)157 calories
Peanut Butter2 tablespoons188 calories
Olive Oil1 tablespoon119 calories
Coconut Oil1 tablespoon116 calories
Chia Seeds1 ounce (28g)138 calories
Flaxseeds1 ounce (28g)150 calories
Tahini1 tablespoon89 calories
Dark Chocolate1 ounce (28g)155 calories
Dried Figs1/2 cup (75g)186 calories
Dates1/2 cup (73g)207 calories
Raisins1/2 cup (72g)217 calories
Sweet Potato1 medium (200g)180 calories
Chickpeas1 cup cooked269 calories
Lentils1 cup cooked230 calories
Black Beans1 cup cooked227 calories
Tempeh1 cup (166g)320 calories
Tofu1 cup (252g)188 calories
Seitan3 ounces (85g)104 calories
Full-fat Greek Yogurt1 cup (245g)220 calories
Cheese (Cheddar)1 ounce (28g)113 calories
Whole Milk1 cup (244g)149 calories
Pasta (Whole Wheat)1 cup cooked174 calories
Brown Rice1 cup cooked216 calories
Oats1 cup cooked158 calories
Granola1/2 cup (60g)300 calories
Peanuts1 ounce (28g)161 calories
Sunflower Seeds1 ounce (28g)164 calories
Pumpkin Seeds1 ounce (28g)151 calories
Bagel (Whole Wheat)1 medium (105g)245 calories
Avocado Oil1 tablespoon124 calories
Maple Syrup1 tablespoon52 calories
Bananas1 medium (118g)105 calories
Mango1 cup sliced99 calories
Coconut Milk1 cup (240ml)552 calories
Soy Milk1 cup (240ml)131 calories
Quinoa (duplicate)1 cup cooked222 calories
40 High Calorie Vegetarian Foods!

Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian

Vegans and vegetarians both follow diets that primarily exclude meat, but they differ in their restrictions and reasons for choosing their respective diets.

Vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry, or fish. This diet might still include dairy products and eggs, depending on the type of vegetarianism. Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products but not eggs. Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy. Lacto-ovo vegetarians include both eggs and dairy in their diet.

Vegans follow a stricter diet, excluding all animal products. This means no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and often other products derived from animals like gelatin or honey. Veganism is often chosen not just for health reasons but also for ethical and environmental concerns, aiming to reduce animal suffering and the environmental impact of animal agriculture.

While this list largely can suit vegans as well, if you are vegan, I recommend that you double check if all items fit into your diet.

Top High Calorie Vegetarian Foods

Nuts

Nuts are a nutritional goldmine for elderly vegetarians, offering a dense source of calories, proteins, and healthy fats. They’re particularly beneficial for those looking to enhance their nutrient intake without increasing meal sizes.

Varieties like almonds, walnuts, and cashews are not only flavorful but also rich in essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for maintaining heart health and cognitive function.

Incorporating a variety of nuts into the diet can support muscle maintenance and provide energy throughout the day.

They can be easily added to salads, yogurt, or simply enjoyed as a snack. For older adults, there are softer types of nuts such as walnuts, sliced almonds, and crushed peanuts! Here are the top 5 calorically dense nuts.

  1. Macadamia Nuts: About 200 calories. They’re also high in healthy fats and low in carbs and protein.
  2. Pecans: Roughly 193 calories. Pecans are rich in fats, with moderate protein and low carbohydrates.
  3. Brazil Nuts: Approximately 187 calories. Besides their calorie content, they’re a great source of selenium.
  4. Walnuts: Around 185 calories. Walnuts are known for their omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Hazelnuts: About 178 calories. They offer a good balance of fats, proteins, and carbs.

Nut Butters

Nut butters serve as a convenient and tasty way to consume the nutritional benefits of nuts in a more digestible form. They are especially suitable for elderly vegetarians, providing a concentrated source of calories and proteins that can be easily spread on bread, blended into smoothies, or used in various recipes.

4 jars of nut butters with nuts strewn around them on a grey countertop.

Nut butters like almond, cashew, and peanut offer a smooth texture and rich flavor that can enhance any meal or snack. They’re a practical solution for increasing calorie intake and ensuring a sufficient protein supply, essential for preserving muscle mass and energy levels in older adults.

Here are the 3 highest nut butter calorie wise.

  1. Macadamia Nut Butter: Around 204 calories. It’s rich in monounsaturated fats, which are good for heart health.
  2. Pecan Butter: Approximately 196 calories. Pecan butter is also high in antioxidants and contains healthy fats.
  3. Almond Butter: About 190 calories. Almond butter is a great source of vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber.

Avocado

Avocado is especially beneficial for elderly vegetarians seeking high-calorie foods. An average medium-sized avocado (about 150 grams) contains approximately 240 calories, 10 grams of fiber and 22 grams of fat.

Its creamy texture and mild flavor make it a versatile addition to any meal, providing a substantial calorie boost along with heart-healthy fats, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

The health benefits of avocados extend beyond just calories; they’re rich in monounsaturated fats, which support heart health and cognitive function.

Incorporating avocados into the diet can be as simple as adding them to smoothies, salads, or spreading them on toast.

Quinoa

Quinoa offers a unique combination of high calories, proteins, and essential nutrients in a versatile grain. Unlike most plant-based foods, quinoa is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.

One cup of cooked quinoa provides about 222 calories, along with fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese. These nutrients are crucial for energy production, digestive health, and maintaining a strong immune system.

For older adults, incorporating quinoa into meals can help meet their increased nutritional needs without consuming large quantities of food.

Quinoa’s mild, nutty flavor and fluffy texture make it a fantastic base for salads, soups, and as a side dish. It can also be used in place of rice or pasta, offering a more nutrient-dense alternative.

Tahini

Tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds, is a calorie-dense food that offers a wealth of nutrients, making it an excellent addition to the diet of elderly vegetarians. Just one tablespoon of tahini contains about 89 calories, along with healthy fats, protein, and fiber.

These components are essential for maintaining energy levels, supporting cardiovascular health, and ensuring proper digestion, which are all crucial aspects of health for the elderly.

The nutritional profile of tahini is particularly beneficial for bone health, thanks to its high content of calcium and magnesium. For elderly individuals, maintaining bone density and strength is vital to prevent fractures and osteoporosis.

Tahini can be easily incorporated into daily meals. It’s versatile enough to be used as a spread on whole-grain toast, blended into dressings for salads, or mixed into hummus for an extra nutrient boost.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a cornerstone of healthy eating, particularly for elderly vegetarians seeking to increase their calorie intake without compromising on nutrition. Rich in monounsaturated fats, it not only enhances the flavor of dishes but also contributes to heart health by improving cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation.

A single tablespoon of olive oil contains about 119 calories, making it an efficient way to add more energy to meals.

The antioxidant properties of olive oil are especially beneficial for the elderly, offering protection against chronic diseases and aging-related conditions. These antioxidants, such as vitamin E and polyphenols, support brain health and may help in reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

Incorporating olive oil into the diet is straightforward and versatile. It can be used in salad dressings, drizzled over cooked vegetables, or added to soups and stews for added richness and flavor.

Legumes

Legumes, including beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are nutritional powerhouses that play a crucial role in the diet of elderly vegetarians. They are an excellent source of protein, providing a plant-based alternative to meat that is essential for maintaining muscle mass and strength as we age.

A single cup of cooked lentils, for example, can offer about 18 grams of protein, 15.6 grams of fiber, iron, and potassium.

bowl of cooked soup with legumes in it on a white counter with a spoon beside it.

The high fiber content in legumes can help reduce constipation, an important consideration for the elderly. This fiber helps maintain regular bowel movements and can prevent common digestive issues.

Incorporating legumes into meals is both easy and versatile. They can be added to soups, salads, and stews, or mashed into spreads and dips. For elderly vegetarians, legumes not only enrich the diet with necessary nutrients but also add variety and texture to meals, making them more enjoyable and satisfying.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is a nutrient and calorie-dense option for elderly vegetarians looking to enhance their diet. It offers a convenient and effective way to increase calorie intake while also providing a burst of natural sweetness and a variety of essential nutrients.

For example, dried apricots, raisins, and dates are not only rich in calories but also packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as potassium and iron. Here are the top 5 high calorie options.

  1. Dates: They contain about 277 calories and 7 grams of fiber. Dates are also rich in natural sugars, making them a high-energy snack.
  2. Prunes (Dried Plums): Prunes have approximately 240 calories and 7.1 grams of fiber. They’re well-known for their digestive benefits.
  3. Dried Apricots: These offer around 241 calories and 7.3 grams of fiber. Dried apricots are also a good source of vitamins A and E.
  4. Raisins: With about 299 calories, raisins provide 3.7 grams of fiber. They’re also rich in iron and potassium.
  5. Dried Figs: Dried figs contain around 249 calories and 9.8 grams of fiber, making them one of the highest in terms of fiber content among dried fruits.

The concentrated nutrient content of dried fruit supports overall health, aiding in digestion, boosting iron levels, and providing antioxidants that protect against cellular damage. This is particularly beneficial for the elderly, who may need more nutrients to support their health while managing a smaller appetite.

However, it’s important to consume dried fruit in moderation due to its high sugar content. Pairing dried fruit with a protein source, like nuts or cheese, can help balance blood sugar levels. This combination makes for a nutritious snack that adds valuable calories and nutrients to an elderly vegetarian’s diet.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a nutritious and versatile food that can significantly benefit elderly vegetarians by providing a high-calorie, nutrient-rich option.

One medium sweet potato contains about 103 calories, 4 grams of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and several other essential nutrients that support eye health, immune function, and blood pressure regulation.

Their natural sweetness and creamy texture make sweet potatoes a favorite among many, easily incorporated into a variety of dishes. They can be baked, mashed, roasted, or added to soups and stews, offering a delicious way to enhance the nutritional profile of meals.

Smoothies

Smoothies are an excellent way for elderly vegetarians to consume a concentrated dose of calories and nutrients in an easily digestible form. They can be customized to include a variety of ingredients, such as fruits, vegetables, nut butters, and plant-based milks, making them a versatile option for any meal or snack. Adding protein powders or Greek yogurt can also boost the protein content, which is essential for maintaining muscle mass and strength.

The convenience of smoothies is particularly beneficial for those with reduced appetites or difficulty chewing, as they can pack a significant nutritional punch in just one serving.

creamy peanut butter banana avocado smoothie

For example, a smoothie made with avocado, spinach, banana, almond milk, and a scoop of protein powder can provide a balanced mix of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The calorie content of some can be anywhere from 500-700 calories!

If you’re looking for a great high protein smoothie option, look at this Creamy Peanut Butter Banana Avocado Smoothie from The Dietitian Prescription!

Rice

Rice is a staple food that offers elderly vegetarians a versatile and calorie-dense carbohydrate option. It’s an excellent source of energy, providing essential B vitamins and minerals like iron and magnesium.

A cup of cooked brown rice contains about 216 calories, along with fiber and protein, making it a nutritious choice for maintaining energy levels throughout the day.

The mild flavor and soft texture of rice make it an ideal food for older adults, who may have sensitivities to stronger flavors or require easier-to-chew options. Rice can be paired with a variety of dishes, from stir-fries and soups to casseroles, making it a flexible carbohydrate source that can fit into any meal plan.

The fiber in whole grains supports digestive health, an important consideration for the elderly, and can help manage blood sugar levels, contributing to overall well-being and disease prevention.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a unique addition to the vegetarian diet, especially for the elderly, due to its medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are fats that the body can easily convert into energy. This makes coconut oil an excellent source of quick, usable energy, providing about 116 calories per tablespoon.

Its saturated fat content also helps to increase the feeling of fullness, which can be beneficial for those needing to manage their appetite or weight. But everyone should be cautious on how much they consume, no more than 10% of their total daily caloric intake.

Incorporating coconut oil into the diet can be done in various ways, from cooking and baking to adding it to smoothies or coffee. Its mild, sweet flavor and high smoke point make it versatile for both sweet and savory dishes, enhancing the taste and nutritional profile of meals without overwhelming other flavors.

Final Thoughts

Having covered over 40 high calorie vegetarian foods, I hope that you now have a solid foundation for a nutritious and calorie-dense vegetarian diet. Each of these foods offers unique health benefits, from heart health and digestive support to muscle maintenance and energy provision. This makes them ideal for addressing the specific dietary needs of older adults.

Incorporating a diverse array of these foods can help ensure that elderly vegetarians receive all the necessary nutrients to support their overall health and well-being. Variety not only contributes to nutritional completeness but also enhances the enjoyment and satisfaction of meals, an important aspect of eating well at any age.

A well-planned vegetarian diet rich in high-calorie foods can meet and even exceed the nutritional needs of the elderly. It can help to reduce weight loss, malnutrition and improve digestive symptoms. By focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods, elderly vegetarians can enjoy a healthful, satisfying diet that supports their lifestyle and nutritional requirements.

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Michelle Saari is a Registered Dietitian based in Canada. She has a Master's Degree in Human Nutritional Sciences and is a passionate advocate for spreading easy to understand, reliable, and trustworthy nutrition information. She is currently a full time online entrepreneur with two nutrition focused websites.

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