Food intake

Leaflet number: 488
Review date: January 2018

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Tips to gain weight or prevent further weight loss

If you have lost weight unintentionally or have a poor appetite, it is important to make the most of the foods you are eating.  The tips below will help you to make the best choices of food to help you gain weight or prevent further weight loss until you are feeling better.

  • As well as considering food, other simple measures may help to stimulate the appetite. A breath of fresh air, gentle exercise and eating in company may be helpful.
  • Small frequent meals are easier to face than large meals – try to have 3 meals daily with 3 snacks between meals.
  • Take time to relax and enjoy meals rather than rushing.
  • Use convenience foods if your appetite is affected by cooking smells or you are unable to stand for long periods.
  • Eat at times convenient to you rather than having set meal times.
  • Try to have at least 1 pudding daily.
  • Try to have 6-8 cups of fluid daily but do not fill up on drinks such as tea, coffee or squash at the expense of nourishing foods.
  • Try to have some fruit every day or a glass of pure fruit juice rather than squash.
  • Aim for 1 pint of full cream milk daily.
  • Don’t overload your plate – if you have a small appetite use a larger plate so the food looks less.
  • A small glass of sherry or wine may stimulate your appetite if taken before meals (check with doctor/nurse).
  • Avoid using low fat or reduced sugar foods for now.

Ideas for nourishing snacks

Snacks should be taken in addition to meals not instead of meals

  • Cheese and crackers or digestive biscuits with butter or margarine
  • Rich Tea biscuits with butter
  • Slice of bread and butter and jam
  • Scones with butter/cream and jam
  • Crisps with dips eg cream cheese and chive, hummous, salsa
  • Mini pies/sausage roll/pasty
  • Glass of chilled full cream milk flavoured for example with Crusha® Syrup or Nesquik®
  • Individual dessert such as trifle, yogurt, crème caramel, rice pudding, junket, milk jellies, thick and creamy yoghurt, egg custard.
  • Hot milky drink eg Ovaltine®, Horlicks® or drinking chocolate
  • Buttered hot toast, crumpet, pancake, teacake or muffin with jam
  • 2-3 biscuits – choose shortbread, flapjacks, cream/chocolate biscuits
  • Cake eg sponge cake, individual apple pies, cream cake, lardy cake
  • Malt loaf/fruit loaf/saffron cake with butter or margarine
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Glass of Meritene Energis® or Complan® (available from the pharmacy or supermarket in various sweet flavours)
  • Mug of Meritene Energis® Soup or Savoury Complan® (available from the pharmacy or supermarket in various savoury flavours)

Enriching foods

Fortified milk

  • Use Full cream milk in tea/coffee, milk puddings, sweet and savory sauces, on cereals and for milky drinks e.g. Ovaltine®, Horlicks®, drinking chocolate, milk shakes.
  • Enrich full cream milk by adding 4 tablespoons of dried milk powder to it, whisking thoroughly or add 2-3 teaspoons of dried milk powder to individual portions of foods e.g. milk pudding, milk based sauces or soup.

Soups and casseroles

  • Make up dried or condensed soup with milk instead of water. Add extra meat, lentils, pulses or pasta.
  • Add grated cheese or cream to soups and casseroles.

Potatoes and vegetables

  • Add butter or margarine, milk or double cream to mashed potato.
  • Add butter or margarine to other vegetables.
  • Fry foods in vegetable oil as often as possible (e.g. stir fry).
  • Do not use low fat spread

Increasing calories

Desserts and puddings

  • Add cream to milk puddings, tinned fruit and puddings.
  • Choose full fat/thick & creamy yoghurt instead of low fat/diet varieties.
  • Make up jelly with milk or evaporated milk instead of water.
  • Add extra sugar, honey or syrup on puddings (and breakfast cereals).

Other ideas

  • Add grated cheese to omelette, pasta dishes, shepherd’s pie or fish pie.
  • Add mayonnaise to sandwich fillings.
  • Use butter or margarine liberally. Add plenty of jam, marmalade, honey etc on bread, toast, muffins, teacakes, scones and crackers.

Further information

If you need further advice, contact your doctor who can refer you to a dietitian.


Content taken from “Making the most of your food” and “Calorie Boosters and Meal Plan suggestions” produced by NHS Devon.


Posted in Dietetics, Medical Conditions, Patient Information Leaflets and tagged , .

Last updated: December 12, 2019