May 01, 2022
Losing your appetite can begin a vicious cycle, where the less you eat, the less you want to eat. It can be difficult to know how to break this closed loop, but there are a number of ways to stimulate your appetite naturally, so that you can gradually begin to increase the amount of food you consume.
Treatment for loss of appetite: simple strategies
There are many causes of loss of appetite, so it makes sense to talk to your doctor or health team to try to identify the root cause for you. But there are strategies you can try at home that may be the catalyst you need to connect with your hunger and motivate your desire to eat. Dietician and Nourish founder Jane Clarke explains more.
1. Switch-up your food routine
‘When appetite is low, the traditional three meals a day, with a large plate of food at each one, can be overwhelming,’ explains Jane Clarke. ‘Instead, you could eat five or six smaller meals or snacks; or have dinner at breakfast time, if that’s when your appetite is highest. And focus on the best foods for loss of appetite so you can make sure your body gets what it needs.’
If you’re eating less at each meal, it’s important to make every mouthful count. ‘You can increase calories by adding cream or a Nourish Drink to porridge or bread and butter pudding, enriching potato mash with butter or cheese, or adding lots of vegetables to a soup so they can bring valuable nutrients and fibre in easily digestible sips.
2. Make mealtimes more enjoyable
Many of us don’t like to eat alone – and that can be particularly true for someone who is recently bereaved and ‘can’t see the point’ of cooking a meal for one; or a person living in a care home who is given meals in their room. ‘You could ask care home staff to sit with your loved one and chat while they eat; or chat on speaker phone with a bereaved relative so you eat a meal ‘together’.
‘I think the rules around the best way to eat should be relaxed when appetite is a problem,’ says Jane Clarke. ‘If you or a loved one will eat in a chair in front of the TV, rather than at the table, then do it.’
3. Tempt the taste buds
If you have spotted some of the signs of loss of appetite, there are ways to help. Indulging in favourite foods can help to break the cycle of not wanting to eat. Think back to family recipes you love, flavours you can’t resist, the scent, texture and look of foods you most enjoy. ‘Even if you feel you can only eat a few mouthfuls, stimulating the taste buds in this way can “wake up” the appetite and encourage you to eat more,’ says Jane.
If a health condition means that you can’t eat a favourite food, see if you can use the ingredients in a different way - soft and easy to eat spaghetti carbonara, say, instead of bacon and eggs. Or a Raspberry Nourish Drink instead of raspberry trifle.
Adding spices and herbs to meals can also rev up a jaded palette and make a meal more appealing.
4. Reduce nausea and bloating
Digestive issues such as nausea, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation can all result in loss of appetite. Speak to your doctor about medication to help, and try home remedies such as peppermint or fennel tea, fresh ginger, and pureed fruits such as apple or blackberries to provide fibre and keep the bowel moving.
5. Make a food moodboard
If a loved one with dementia is experiencing loss of appetite, the visual cues of a food and moodboard can help. Find photographs of favourite foods, and places they have strong food associations with (for example, ice creams on the beach or a special restaurant), and put them on a moodboard or in a scrapbook to look at together and discuss what they’d like to eat.
6. Look at medication
Some medications and health treatments impact appetite, so always let your doctor or health team know if this is an issue you are experiencing. They may be able to alter your treatment, or provide additional drugs to counteract any side effects.