9 Ways to Increase Your Appetite

If you're sick, losing weight, and have no appetite, it could be due to illness, an emotional issue, or as a side effect of treatment. You know you need to eat more to gain the weight back or, at least, maintain your current weight, but you just don't feel like eating anything.

You can try to force yourself to eat, but that may just add to the stress of being sick. So here are some simple ways you can increase your appetite. This advice is also good for caregivers who are trying to get a loved one to eat a bit more. 


Stock up on Favorite Foods

Groceries in brown paper bag
Maximilian Stock Ltd. / Getty Images

You'll find that it's much easier to eat something you really enjoy, so keep some favorite snacks on hand. If you're not feeling up to making a trip to the grocery store, perhaps a caregiver, family member, or friend can pick up some of your favorite foods and stock your fridge and shelves with foods you love to eat.

Local delivery services or websites such as Amazon.com make it easy to shop and you can have your food as early as the next day. 


Eat Snacks Instead of Meals

Soup with red lentils, carrots and sesame

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The thought of a huge plateful of food may leave you feeling queasy, but a small snack probably won't seem quite as bad. So rather than forcing yourself to eat three big meals a day, nibble on six or seven small snack-sized meals instead. Try a small sandwich, a cup of soup, or a handful of nuts with some fresh fruit.


Choose Energy Dense Foods


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Energy-dense is a polite way of saying something is high in calories. If you're only able to eat small snacks or infrequent meals, it's a good idea to choose foods that are higher in calories.

Healthy energy-dense foods include cheese, nuts or nut butter, avocados, and legumes. Add your favorite sauce, dressing, shredded or melted cheese, butter, or gravy to a serving of potatoes, rice, or pasta, to boost your caloric intake.


Bring out the Flavors

spice rack

Jeffrey Coolidge / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Perhaps part of the problem is that you can't taste your foods, which can happen as a part of aging. Add herbs and spices to your meals to enhance the flavor. Or perhaps a dash of Tabasco or Sriracha sauce. Salt also enhances flavor, but if you have high blood pressure, you should speak to your doctor about eating salt or choose salt substitutes.


Set a Nice Table

white table setting with napkin and dishes

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Bring out your best place setting and light a candle or two if you're up to it, or eat your meal with your favorite music playing in the background because a relaxed and happy atmosphere makes eating more pleasant. It's even better if you can enjoy meals with family members. 


Drink Water Between Meals, Not During

glass of water on table

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Drinking water right before and during a meal might cut back on the amount of food you'll eat due to the volume of the fluid. It's OK to enjoy a beverage with your meal, but just take a few sips so you can focus on the food. Then drink water or suck on ice cubes between meals.


Change the Texture

Yogurt in a bowl

ATU Images / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images 

If you're having trouble chewing or swallowing food, it may help to ​mechanically alter your foods. You can chop or mince meats and raw vegetables into small bits to make chewing easier. Add liquid and puree your foods, so they're easier to swallow, Or, eat soft foods like soup, yogurt, and very ripe fruit.


Drink Liquid Meals

Woman preparing smoothie in blender

10'000 Hours / DigitalVision / Getty Images

If you just don't feel like eating, drinking Ensure or Carnation Instant Breakfast, or another meal replacement. You can also make your own delicious fruit smoothies if you have a powerful blender. Add more calories to your smoothies with a spoonful of peanut butter or protein powder.


Get Some Exercise

Runner feet running on road closeup on shoe.

boonchai wedmakawand / Moment / Getty Images

Physical activity releases brain chemicals that can improve your mood and stimulate your appetite. Taking a brief walk about an hour or so before eating may just help make that next meal a bit more appealing.

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