When we lose our appetite, we may find ourselves losing too much weight. This can increase the risk of health problems associated with being underweight. If you are underweight, at risk of being underweight, or losing weight at a dangerously fast pace due to illness or medications, then you may be looking to either gain some weight or prevent further weight loss. Read on for some healthy tips to help control your weight.
Tips to Navigate Appetite (And Make Eating Feel Less Like a Chore)
Eating 5-6 smaller meals a day is easier to eat and digest than three large ones. Space meals about 2 to 3 hours apart.
Have gastric reflux (GERD) or heartburn? Stop eating 2 to 3 hours before bed and sleep with your head elevated.
Avoid developing negative associations with food. Do not eat your favorite foods if you are feeling bad. Save them for when you feel good!
Eat when you’re active. Most people will have a better appetite at their most active time of day. But when we are more active, we may forget to eat. Pile on those calories and other nutrients before and during the times when you are more active. Your body will make room for it.
Drink Fluids Later, Save Room for Food! Fluids can take up valuable space in your stomach, forcing you to eat less. Have a few sips with your meal to help swallow food, and save the rest for later.
Have a moment for a snack? Try some ideas from the table below or use store-bought nutrition bars, puddings, or meal replacement shakes (like Vega, Boost, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Ensure, or Glucerna).
Get some physical activity. Light or moderate exercise can help maintain muscle and boost appetite. Walking is a great way to keep your heart healthy but doesn’t boost muscle growth very much. Many people with low weight may have trouble building and maintaining muscle. The new WHO guidelines recommend strengthening exercises 3 times per week, along with balance training exercises 3 times pr week. If you are unsteady on your feet, try walking around the dining room table, or begin with balance exercises. Talk to your doctor about what exercises are right for you.
Use Different Food Groups to Healthfully Increase Calories
Milk, dairy, and dairy products
• Add cheese to toast, crackers, sandwiches, baked potatoes, vegetables, soups, noodles, meat, and fruit • Use 2% or whole milk in place of water when cooking oatmeal and cream soups • Add powdered milk to cream soups and mashed potatoes • Include cream sauces on vegetables and pasta • Keep hard-cooked eggs in the refrigerator- add to salads, casseroles, rice dishes, soups, or vegetables • Add flavored greek yogurt to desserts, pancakes, waffles, fruit • Add whipping cream to hot chocolate, and fold it into soups and casseroles • Add sour cream or plain greek yogurt to baked potatoes and vegetables
Meats, poultry, and fish
• Add leftover cooked meats to soups, casseroles, salads, and omelets • Make dips by mixing diced, chopped, or shredded meat with spices and mashed beans, hummus, or avocado
Beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds
• Sprinkle nuts and seeds on cereals, fruit, and desserts such as ice cream, pudding, and custard Serve nuts and seeds on vegetables, salads, and pasta • Spread peanut butter on toast, bread, English muffins, and fruit, or blend it in a milk shake • Add beans and peas to salads, soups, casseroles, dips, and vegetable dishes • Mix chopped or ground nuts into batter for pancakes, waffles, or baked desserts
Fats: Butter, margarine, oils, and plant fats
• Melt butter or margarine over potatoes, rice, pasta, cooked vegetables, soups and casseroles • Spread avocado or greek yogurt (flavored or unflavored) on bread for sandwiches • Add oil, nut butter, or ground nuts in marinades for meat, chicken, or fish. • Use regular (not low-fat or diet) mayonnaise, avocado, or guacamole and salad dressing on sandwiches and in savory dips. • Puree avocado with your typical salad dressing for a boost of healthy fiber, fat and calories.
For conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or patients undergoing cancer treatment, it is recommended to be a little overweight as the extra fat helps to protect patients in case of sudden weight loss. If you are unsure if your weight is an issue, talk to your doctor. Also, talk about other potential dietary restrictions or digestive disorders that may affect your appetite and ability to add more calories and exercise. Your Dietitian or Health Coach will be happy to support you to help improve your weight!