If you have a good appetite, you should not have trouble eating the extra calories and protein that you may need if you are ill. If you do not have a good appetite, there are ways to add extra energy and protein to your diet without having to eat more food.
Talk to your doctor, specialist nurse or a dietitian if you are still struggling. They may encourage you to eat everyday foods that are high in energy and protein. They can also recommend or prescribe manufactured food (nutritional) supplements (see below), which can come in forms such as milkshakes and juices.
Your doctor at the hospital can refer you to a dietitian. In some hospitals, you can refer yourself. You can contact the hospital’s dietetic department for more information. If you are not in hospital, your GP can refer you to a community dietitian, who may be able to visit you at home. They may also be able to see you at your local GP surgery or health centre.
If you have any dietary limitations, for example, lactose intolerance or diabetes, it is important to talk to a dietitian, GP or specialist doctor at the hospital for advice.
Adding extra energy and protein to your diet without having to eat more is called fortifying your food. You can make fortified milk by adding 2 to 4 tablespoons of dried milk powder to a pint (570ml) of full-fat milk and mixing it together. Keep it in the fridge and use it in drinks, on cereals and for cooking. Use fortified milk or milk-based supplements instead of water to make soups, jellies, custards and puddings. Many producers of nutritional supplements can give you recipes that use their products. Read the packet or visit the website for details.
Cereals and porridge
Pour fortified milk or a milk-based supplement over your cereal. Make porridge with full-fat milk or cream. Add golden syrup, maple syrup, honey or sugar to your cereal or porridge. Try adding stewed or dried fruit too.
Casseroles and soups
Add lentils, beans or noodles to casseroles and soups. Stir a tablespoon of cream into canned soups, or add energy and protein supplements. Grate some cheese over the heated soup, or drizzle some olive oil over the top. Try making packet soups using fortified milk.
Add butter or cream to mashed potato, and sprinkle grated cheese on top.
Melt butter on hot vegetables and top with grated cheese or a chopped, hard-boiled egg. Or add a sauce made with fortified milk or cream.
Use plenty of butter or spread. Add a dessert spoon of mayonnaise or salad cream to thick sandwich fillings such as tuna, chicken, egg or cheese.
Below are some tips to add energy and protein to meals:
- When you are shopping, choose full-fat foods instead of ‘diet’ or ‘light’ foods.
- Fry your foods in oil, ghee or butter.
- Add extra butter, margarine or oil to bread, potatoes, pasta and cooked vegetables.
- Add extra cheese to sauces and extra paneer to curries.
- Add cream, sour cream, plain yoghurt, mascarpone or crème fraiche to sauces, soups and meat dishes.
- Add whole or blended beans, lentils or peas to curries and stews.
- Add evaporated milk, condensed milk or cream to desserts and hot drinks.
- Have cream or ice-cream with desserts.
- Add peanut butter (or other nut spreads), chocolate spread, tahini, honey or jam to bread, toast, crackers and biscuits.