Increasing nutritional intake

If you don't eat enough or have lost weight without trying, making changes to your meals and snacks can improve your nutrition. You'll need to eat certain foods recommended by your doctor or a dietician until your appetite improves or you start to gain weight.

Meals, drinks and snacks to help you put on weight

You should begin to put on weight by making  changes to your diet. If your appetite doesn't improve, you lose more weight or you find it difficult to change your diet, you need to tell your doctor.

You should:

  • eat little and often - aim for three small meals and two or three snacks a day if your appetite is poor
  • take drinks after your meal, not before or during as this can make you feel full
  • fortify drinks, snacks and meals to make them nutritious
  • eat convenience foods if you find cooking difficult or tiring
  • cut down or stop smoking as smoking can reduce your appetite
  • eat breakfast as it may help you eat better for the rest of the day
  • add variety to your diet to make meals more interesting

Food groups

If you're worried about nutrition or malnutrition, talk to your GP.  If you're losing weight or are malnourished, you should eat a balanced diet which includes foods from four groups:

  • protein foods
  • dairy foods
  • fruits and vegetables
  • carbohydrates / starchy foods

Protein foods

You should have two portions of protein foods a day and choose from:

Meat, chicken and fish

  • include at least 75 to100g (three to four ounces) of meat, chicken or fish if you have a cooked meal
  • convenience foods such as lasagne, fish in sauce or shepherd’s pie
  • a snack meal which includes a small portion of meat or fish in a sandwich or on toast for example tinned mackerel on toast or chicken sandwich

Cheese and eggs

  • add grated cheese to scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes or sprinkled onto a bowl of soup or beans on toast
  • a snack meal with cheese on toast or cheese or egg sandwiches. (one ounce or 30g cheese or one or two eggs)
  • a cheese or egg meal such as macaroni cheese, scrambled eggs, cauliflower cheese or an omelette
  • make a cheese sauce to put with vegetables, fish or pasta

Beans and lentils

  • a meal with lentil or bean soups, or add tinned beans such as butter beans or kidney beans to casseroles or soups

Nuts

  • snack plain, salted, dry-roasted or chocolate covered nuts
  • add nuts to foods such as casseroles, salads or desserts

Dairy foods

  • aim for at least one pint (568 ml) of milk per day or at least three portions of dairy foods
    • one portion is: 200 ml (1/3 pint) milk
    • 150g (medium pot) of yoghurt
    • 30g (one ounce) cheese
    • 200g (1/2 can) of milk pudding
  • use whole milk if you are losing weight, or aim for two to three portions each day
  • choose thick, creamy yoghurts and avoid low fat, sugar free yoghurts
  • include a milk-based dessert at meals for example custard, milk jelly, yoghurt, fruit fools and mousses

Fruits and vegetables

  • fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen or tinned) provide vitamins and minerals - include small helpings with meals but don’t fill up on these as they are low in protein and calories
  • aim for at least one glass of pure fruit juice or squash fortified with vitamin C a day

Carbohydrates

  • carbohydrates are starchy foods and include potatoes, breakfast cereal, rice, pasta and bread - these are important as they provide fuel for the body and essential vitamins and minerals
  • wholegrain varieties provide fibre and help to prevent constipation but may be filling so avoid if appetite is small
  • have at least one portion at every meal - one serving is approximately one slice of bread, ½ cup of rice, ½ cup of pasta, two egg sized potatoes or a small bowl of cereal

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