I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t had loss of appetite before. That dry, clammy mouth, the bloating sensation deep in the gut, the revolt at even the tiniest hint of food smells…the list goes on. Loss of appetite will make you push away the juiciest piece of steak or the flakiest apple pie, fresh out the oven. It gets you questioning your love for food, and is an absolute downer. That’s why food tips for poor appetite will always come in handy.
Ironically, when you have no appetite is probably the time you need nutrients from food more than ever.
It occurs during the early stages of pregnancy, when hit with a bout of gastrointestinal disease, or after a round of chemotherapy.
Diminished appetite in these instances are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we should just sit back and let it run its course. Every day that passes with insufficient food intake means a poorer immune function and possibly, weight loss.
Certain medications help to lift the appetite. However, the thought of having to swallow yet another pill to stimulate the appetite is downright off-putting.
What if all you needed to do was adjust the foods you eat to suit your appetite? In this article, I’m going to discuss some food tips for poor appetite, so you can support your body in times of need.
Dry foods help combat nausea
Often, underlying nausea is a major cause of poor appetite. It can be brought on by strong smells or complex flavours.
Dry foods hold the power of cutting nausea as they are not strong smelling. They are often also plain and simple, and may suit the taste buds a bit better.
Some good options include sugar or salted biscuits, plain crackers, or toast. They also happen to be carbohydrates, which will be easily broken down to energy for use by the body.
If these foods are all you’re able to tolerate, have them intermittently between meals, or as meals—that’s better than not eating at all.
If you’re up to it, make these foods more nutritive by adding sliced cheese or peanut butter. Not only do they add just a layer of flavour, they’re a good source of protein.
If you’re interested, I’ve written other articles about the right amount of protein for muscle growth and how to get the right types of protein if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
Sour foods stimulate the appetite
If you’re not eating much because your mouth feels very dry, try eating some sour foods.
They stimulate saliva production and are most effective when consumed before your main meal. This way, when there’s food in your mouth, the saliva helps to moisten it. This eases the food down your throat as you swallow.
Your options include lemon, lime, preserved sour plum, berries, or pickles. You may suck on these foods for a bit before eating them, or infuse them in water.
One of my favourites that really get my appetite going is this Tangy Sardine Fried Beehoon (rice vermicelli).
If you like, some of these can also be added into a plain dish for a kick of flavour.
Think green bean soup with mandarin peel, plain porridge with pickled vegetables, oats with berries, or barley water with a squeeze of lemon. These options also happen to have liquid in them, which would hydrate you at the same time!
Experiment with temperatures
Everyone is different when it comes to food temperature preferences. Some like their food piping hot, some lukewarm, while others can’t eat a single mouthful until it has cooled down.
When loss of appetite occurs, these baseline preferences may change around. You may find yourself preferring cold foods rather than hot, or vice versa!
Try consuming foods of different temperatures than what you’re normally used to and see if you find it more tolerable.
For instance, when I’m down with a fever, I may seek comfort and prefer a bowl of warm oats instead of my usual cold cereal. Or, a cancer patient with mouth ulcers may choose a cold and soothing dessert like mango ice cream than a rich and fudgy brownie with caramel sauce.
If you’re caring for someone with loss of appetite, remember one thing: your loved one’s normal food preferences may not be the same as usual, so mix things up!
Keep things plain and simple (or not)
This must be one of the most confusing food tips for poor appetite. But the point is, everyone is different. Every person has different requests when they lose their appetite. You may prefer plain foods, while your friend has to have a kick of flavour.
If you prefer plain food, you often fall under the camp of people who’d only eat one ingredient dishes like porridge, toast, or oats. While something is better than nothing, it’s not ideal in cases such as pregnancy and cancer, where other nutrients such as protein is essential.
Get your caregiver to include plain tasting proteins such as tofu, eggs, fish, or beans in your meals. If you find that the usual aroma food wafting in from the kitchen is nauseating and off-putting, do something about it! Ask for the kitchen door to be shut, or cover your nose with a handkerchief until food is served.
If you prefer a punch of flavour in your food, you’d probably be one of those who’d refuse hospital meals.
In this case, ask for things like herbs and spices in your food. Have a bottle of vinegar or soy sauce on hand to add to dishes. Request for sesame seeds, pickled chilli, or even kimchi. Let the person buying/making you food know your preferences. That way, they can help you better
Drink your calories
For some people, drinking liquids is a lot easier than managing solid food. And that’s perfectly fine! There are nutrients in liquids too.
Try nourishing liquids like milk, soy milk, or yoghurt for a dose of protein in your drink.
If you’re up to it, you can even have a liquid meal. Simply blend up milk with some oats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts for a balanced meal that gives you as much calories and protein as a solid meal. Check out my No-fuss Smoothie Meal for a really tasty drink!
With that, I round up my food tips for poor appetite! Loss of appetite is no joke, and can be especially detrimental to health and recovery from illness if it is prolonged.
Look out for the earliest signs of poor appetite and try to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. At times, it may be frustrating as nothing seems to work.
But remember, every individual is different, so if you’re caring for someone with poor appetite, listen to what that person has to say.
Don’t lose faith and keep trying different foods, textures, temperatures, or even environments! Sometimes a change in scenery is all a person needs to be encouraged to eat just that little bit more.