Ideas and suggestions
These are some ideas to help you keep eating well when you’re ill.
Sometimes you might not feel like eating – even if someone has made something especially for you. This could be because of difficulties with swallowing or digestion, a sore mouth, or because of your illness or treatments.
- Eating small portions regularly is fine, and might be more appealing.
- Nibble on snacks, like almonds or pieces of fruit.
- Eat something for breakfast when you wake up in the morning – it’s the time of day when appetite is at its best.
- It might be easier for you to eat sitting upright.
- A small glass of sherry or brandy half an hour before a meal or a glass of wine may help with appetite and digestion, but ask your doctor first.
Ideas for healthy meals and snacks video
If you’re caring for someone at home, this film gives you ideas for healthy meals and snacks.
If the smell of hot food makes you feel nauseous, try eating cold meals, consisting of food that doesn’t need to be cooked. Cold meats could be a good option and raw food, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and some dairy products, provide a lot of nutrition. You could try some raw food recipes.
Boiled sweets can soothe a dry mouth and relieve nausea. Fizzy drinks, like sparkling mineral water or lemonade, can also help.
More suggestions to help you with loss of appetite and nausea are given in our article ‘Weight loss and loss of appetite’.
Liquid and soft food
You may find it easier to manage liquid foods like:
- vegetable and fruit smoothies
- food supplements like Ensure, Fortisip or Complan
- flavoured milkshakes
Or soft foods like:
- mashed potato
Often these foods can be eaten when other types of food aren’t as easy or appealing to eat. Jelly beans can also be good if you’re missing certain flavours, although they’re not very nutritious.
You might need some assistance during mealtimes. These tips could help:
- If sitting up is difficult try using a few extra pillows to get you in the right position for eating.
- A table across the bed can also be helpful.
- Get someone to help you if you’re finding it hard or tiring to eat your food.
- Meals can take a long time to eat, so allow for this.
Untreated loss of appetite can lead to weight loss. If you carry on having problems with your appetite or you find you're losing weight, contact your nurse or doctor. They can also advise and treat you if nausea is stopping you from eating. Talk to your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.
Eating a healthy diet made up of different foods provides nutrients to your body and gives you energy. A balanced diet should be made up of the following food groups:
- Protein: meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, pulses (beans and lentils), eggs and dairy products.
- Carbohydrates: bread, rice, noodles, potatoes, pasta, couscous and quinoa.
- Fibre: wholegrains provide plenty of fibre – brown rice, brown pasta, wholemeal bread, vegetables, and fruit.
- Fruit and vegetables: provide vitamins and minerals – freshly made fruit and vegetable juices can be a very tasty way of getting plenty of nutrients.
- Fats: essential fats from oily fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines – are an important part of a healthy diet, but cut down on saturated fats – full cream or whole milk, butter, cream, cheese and red meat.
- Tastes can change, so choose the foods that appeal to you most.
- Try not to add salt or sugar, as many foods contain them anyway.
- Try to drink plenty of water.
Vitamins and minerals
The NHS website gives detailed information about vitamin and mineral requirements.
You might find it helpful to have a chart up on the wall showing vitamins and minerals in food.
Print this page