A poor appetite is common among people who are ill, for example, cancer patients, and others who may be undergoing medical treatment. Depression, anxiety or grief may also cause a reduced desire to eat. A poor appetite can cause significant unintentional weight loss, weakness and fatigue. It is important for people with a reduced appetite to consume enough calories, protein and fluid to ensure they are getting adequate nutrition.
Eat Frequent Meals
Eating small meals more frequently will help you eat more calories without getting too full. Instead of eating three large meals at breakfast, lunch and dinnertime, try eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day. You can split large meals into two smaller portions and eat at different times of the day. Try to eat something nutrient dense every two to three hours.
Include High Calorie Foods
Adding foods that are high in calories to your diet will allow you to eat less and still get enough energy. Include nutritious foods such as nuts, seeds, and nut butters, which are high in both calories and healthy fats. One cup of sliced avocados provides 234 calories. Add slices to smoothies, sandwiches or a pasta dish. Use butter and oil on toast, potatoes, rice, pasta or vegetables. Add cheese to omelets, soups or salads to increase calories. Avoid eating junk foods, which don't offer much in terms of nutrition, even though they may have a lot of calories.
Try Nutritional Shakes
Milkshakes require little preparation.There are many prepackaged nutritional drink powders that can contribute a significant number of calories and protein to your diet. Mix the powder with whole milk and frozen fruit for a milkshake that is rich in nutrients. You can also add flaxseeds for an additional boost of calories and protein. It may be easier for those with poor appetites to drink nutritious milkshakes instead of eating solid foods.
Include High Protein Foods
If you have a poor appetite, it is also important to get enough protein. Protein is essential for the growth and development of cells and tissues and if not eaten in adequate amounts, muscle wasting can develop. Include meat, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts and legumes in your meal and snacks to ensure adequate protein intake.
Lindsey Lankowsky is a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles. She holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Michigan State University and a Master of Science in nutrition from Case Western Reserve University. Lankowsky has worked in the Veterans Health Administration since 2009 and has written various nutrition articles for the VA.