Poor appetite may be caused by illness, medications, anxiety or emotional stress. It is important to maintain good nutrition to prevent weight loss and improve your ability to heal and fight infection.

You may not feel as hungry as you normally would or you may feel ‘full’ more quickly. Favourite foods may lose their appeal. Often these changes to your appetite and senses of taste or smell are temporary. Good nutrition can still be maintained and foods previously disliked may be better enjoyed. There are several things you can do to not only improve your appetite, but also maintain an adequate dietary intake:

Make every mouthful count

If you’re not eating very much it’s important to make every mouthful really count. Don’t waste it on something that’s low in kilojoules if you really should be having a high kilojoule intake. Try to choose nutritious foods which are rich in protein and energy. For example choose to drink a glass of milk instead of a cup of tea as it has more protein and nutrition in it.

Optimise your appetite

If you don’t feel very hungry, it’s important to make the most of any little bit of appetite that you do have. Your dietitian can teach you tricks to optimise your appetite such as eating your main meal at lunch or breakfast if you have a better appetite earlier in the day, or drinking nutritious drinks which won’t fill you up as much at times when you can’t manage a meal.

Learn ways to stimulate your appetite

Think about what stimulates your appetite. Some people find that a little fresh air can stimulate their appetite, so could you set up a dining table on the veranda or balcony? If your doctor permits alcohol, a small glass of alcohol half an hour before meals may improve the appetite.

Additionally, your dietitian can organise nutritional supplements for you to help you replace any key nutrients that you may be missing from your diet.