The right nutrition is important in all stages of life, whether old, young, fit and healthy or during illness, but food and eating are much more than just getting enough energy and the right nutrients to maintain life. Food is also a pleasure and enjoyment; it doesn’t just nourish us physically, but also emotionally and psychologically.
We often create positive associations with food throughout our lives. It might be the Christmas dinner the way our mother used to make it or an exotic dish from a foreign holiday. It is the taste of the food as well as the look that satisfies us, as it is said: “We eat with our eyes”.
Feeling unwell often affects your appetite. Some people might not feel hungry or they feel full soon after they have started their meal. Others find that food makes them nauseous or that their treatment makes some food taste different. As an effect of your illnesses, your body may have higher nutritional requirements than usual. This combined with a poor appetite can lead to weight loss and malnutrition which can increase the risk of infection, the risk of side effects during treatment and the ability to regain health altogether.
Often it is necessary to make some dietary changes, to meet the increased nutritional requirements. These changes should include foods which are energy dense and high in protein, like some of the following recipes, which may make it easier to maintain adequate energy and nutrient intake in a smaller volume of food.
Dietary changes often mean you can choose foods you would normally not consider as a healthy option or foods you previously would not allow yourself to eat. The dietary changes should not only be about getting enough energy, but the focus should also be on enhancing the enjoyment of food and drinks and reduce the pressure some people have to try and maintain a normal diet. This will have physical and psychological benefits.
The dietitian will in these situations work with you to agree on realistic goals, establish food likes and dislikes and encourage food first. Being able to enjoy a meal will help improve your sense of well-being and quality of life. However, there are times when after trying to include nourishing foods and drinks it may be beneficial to include specialist products which have been designed to provide extra nutrition in a small volume. There is a wide range available and a dietitian can help you choose the best product to suit your individual requirements.