Good food guide

A guide to eating well when you have a poor appetite or have lost weight information for patients, their family and friends

This advice may not be suitable for some medical conditions e.g. food allergies.

Should your appetite not improve and you continue to lose weight, please contact your district nurse, practice nurse or GP.

Good food guide – every day aim to have

  1. At least 1 pint of full-cream (blue top) milk daily: in drinks, meals and in cooking or even better use enriched milk* instead. Enriched milk is rich and creamy and contains extra calories and protein.
  2. Two protein portions: meat, chicken, fish, well-cooked eggs, cheese, nuts, beans or lentils. This will help to ensure that you are having enough protein.
  3. One serving of starchy carbohydrate with every meal: bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, cereal or chapattis. Choose wholegrain varieties to help keep your bowels healthy.
  4. Two puddings: to help boost both calories and protein. Individual puddings such as trifles, creamed rice, fruit pies and mousses are quick and easy. Why not have one as a snack?
  5. A small portion of fruit and vegetables with your meals as they are important sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

* To make enriched milk: mix 2-4 tablespoons of milk powder (e.g. Marvel, Five Pints) into 1 pint of full cream milk.

Remember - until your appetite returns to normal it is better not to use low or reduced fat and sugar products as they are lower in calories.

Make your food and drink more nourishing by fortifying with extra calories and protein by:

  • Using enriched milk to make soups, sauces, puddings, milky drinks such as coffee, Horlicks®, Ovaltine®, Bournvita®, drinking chocolate or cocoa
  • Adding extra butter or margarine to vegetables and potatoes. Frying also adds extra calories
  • Being generous when spreading butter, margarine, jam, marmalade and other toppings
  • Adding extra cream and/or sugar or glucose to drinks breakfast cereals, sauces and puddings

Hints and tips

  • Eating little and often is the best way to increase both your calories and protein. You should aim to have three small meals and three snacks each day, this means having something nourishing to eat or drink every two to three hours.
  • Enjoy a veriety of foods, have two small courses at each meal. It might help to have a short rest of 15-20 minutes between courses
  • Try not to get out of the habit of eating – you actually need to keep eating to stimulate your appetite. Having a breath of fresh air before meals also helps
  • Always have breakfast – you’ll find you eat better for the rest of the day
  • Take your time eating, chew all foods well and try to rest after meals
  • It is best not to drink just before a meal, drink towards the end or after meals so that you do not spoil your appetite. This goes for soup as well, if you enjoy soup, have a small portion
  • Tempt your appetite by making meals look attractive – serve small portions on a small plate and add garnishes
  • A small glass of beer, wine or sherry or a measure of spirits about half an hour before meals can help ‘pep’ up your appetite. Check with your doctor first

It is very important that you drink enough fluid to keep healthy – aim to have 6-8 cups every day (3 pints or 2 litres)

  • Always choose nourishing drinks such as enriched milk, a milky drink (see below for ideas), milky coffee, fresh fruit juice or squash fortified with vitamin C rather than having water, fizzy drinks or tea too often.

Nourishing drinks ideas

Milkshakes and smoothies – mix up your own (in a blender if you have one) using enriched milk along with any combination of fruit, ice-cream and full fat yoghurt – sweeten with extra glucose or honey. You’ll find ready-made smoothies and milk shakes such as Yazoo or Nesquik beside the fresh milk or long-life milk products in the shops.

Build Up and Complan - are sold in chemists and supermarkets. Sweet and savoury flavours are available. Use them as a nourishing between meal snack or occasionally to replace a meal.

Making meal times easier

Ready-made meals – frozen, chilled or packets are all good for days when you are tired or find cooking difficult.

Take up any offers of help with cooking and shopping from neighbours, friends or family and make use of home delivery services for delivering shopping or meals. 

Most people find that when they eat in company they eat better. This could be with friends or family or at a local lunch club. 

You may find Meals on Wheels helpful. For further information on this service please contact the Meals on Wheels organiser on +44 1624 637308

If you have dental problems or ill fitting dentures contact your dentist who may be able to visit you at home if you cannot get along to the surgery.

Eating better

Try to follow a healthy lifestyle and choose balanced diet when you have recovered, you should be enjoying a variety of foods each day. For further information contact your medical practice.

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