Eating for Recovery

It’s not unusual when you are unwell or recovering from illness to have problems with your appetite or for your body to need extra nutrients. You may find that you have lost weight, feel weaker or less able to do the activities in life that are important to you. Symptoms like this can sometimes be a sign of malnutrition, which means your body stores of nutrients like protein and vitamins may be low. Good nutrition in addition to being active is essential in helping you to recover.

If you are worried about your appetite or any unplanned weight loss, you can use the BAPEN nutritional screening tool to check your risk. The malnutrition screening tool will tell you if you are at low, medium or high risk and give you first-line advice to help you overcome some of these problems. If your result is high risk, it is important to contact your healthcare team and request a referral to a dietitian for individual advice and support. 

Find out more about fuelling your recovery. If you need more information you can ask your healthcare team to refer you to a dietitian.

Some people may find they have difficulty swallowing (Dysphagia) following being unwell or recovering from illness. Someone who cannot swallow safely may not be able to eat or drink enough to stay healthy or maintain an ideal weight. Further information on dysphagia can be found here.

If you are underweight, are losing weight or have a poor appetite, the following useful tips will help you to get more nourishment from your diet:

  1. You should try to eat three meals per day, with snacks and nourishing drinks in between. Try including mixed nuts, yoghurts, cheese and crackers, toast or crumpets, or full fat milk, hot chocolate, milkshakes or smoothies

  2. If you eat low fat or ‘diet’ type foods, switch to the full fat or full calorie equivalents as the extra energy in them may halt or slow any unplanned weight loss.

  3. Aim to include some protein foods in each meal or snack, such as meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, beans and nuts.

  4. Try enriching your foods by adding extra calories to them, for example:
    – Add cheese to soups, pasta, mash potato or vegetables,
    – Add extra butter, margarine to vegetables, bread or scrambled egg.

  5. Take drinks after you have eaten rather than with meals so that they don’t fill you up.

Please see the following videos for more detail about how you can have an enriched and nourishing diet.

This video contains 5 Steps to help you help yourself to a more nourishing diet:

Play Video

If you have a small appetite, you may like to try these ideas for enriching and fortifying your food and drink. This will help you get more nourishment from small portions which suit you:

Play Video

The 5 steps video refers to meal delivery services and snack ideas. Further ideas can be found in the following downloadable documents:

The enriching and fortifying video refers to more information fortification and enriching, as described here:

Nutritional supplements

Nutritional supplements are sometimes prescribed when you can’t get everything you need from your diet. If you have been recommended by a dietitian or other healthcare professional to take a powdered nutritional supplement.

The following videos give guidance on making up different types of powdered
supplement products.

If you do not see a video for the product you use here, please follow written instructions you have been provided.

 If you have any questions, please discuss with the dietitian or healthcare professional who recommended the product.

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