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Food As Treatment For Undernutrition

Focus on Undernutrition promotes the use of food first for people who are identified as moderate and high risk of undernutrition. However, sometimes despite best efforts it is not always possible to meet nutritional requirements from food alone and prescribed nutritional supplements may need to be considered.

If there are any concerns about weight loss or poor appetite it is important that advice is sought from a healthcare professional, such as a GP or a dietitian.

Every mouthful counts if someone has a poor appetite. It is therefore very important that food and drinks are packed full of nourishment. This means that even though only small portion sizes are eaten, nutritional requirements may still be met, preventing further weight loss prevented and promoting weight gain.

Practical ways of using food to treat undernutrition:

1. Nourishing snacks

Nourishing snacks are recommended at least twice a day
– Nourishing snack ideas are a slice of malt loaf, cheese and biscuits, half a scone or teacake, handful of nuts, piece of cake
– A plain biscuit e.g. rich tea, morning coffee, is not a nourishing snack as it is low in calories
– One slice of malt loaf is the same amount calories as four plain biscuits
– The Focus on Undernutrition Nourishing Snacks leaflet provides further ideas on nourishing snacks

2. Nourishing drinks

Nourishing drinks are encouraged throughout the day
– Replace at least two cups of tea or other lower-calorie drinks with nourishing drinks
– Nourishing drinks ideas are milky coffee, milky hot chocolate, fruit juice
– Did you know a cup of milky coffee made with full cream milk is the same amount of calories as eight cup of teas
– The Focus on Undernutrition Nourishing Drinks leaflet provides further ideas on nourishing drinks

3. Fortified diet (high-calorie protein diet)

  • A fortified diet is where meal dishes are adapted by adding small quantities of everyday foods which increases the calorie and nutrient content without increasing the portion size. This means every mouthful is full of nourishment
  • The Focus on Undernutrition Fortified Diet Recipes leaflet provides further ideas on fortified diets

4. Multivitamin and mineral capsules

  • It is recommended that a general multivitamin and mineral capsule is taken daily, to ensure adequate amounts of micronutrients. A version from the chemist should be suitable
  • Seek advice from a pharmacist or GP to determine an appropriate product.

5. Homemade fortified drinks

  • Two homemade fortified drinks are recommended each day
  • Each 200mls drink contains at least 300 calories which is similar to prescribed nutritional supplement drinks, for example, Complan Shake, Fortisip, Fortijuce and Ensure Plus
  • Homemade fortified drinks are made with full cream milk, skimmed milk powder and other ingredients which are readily available within the home. The drinks can be prepared by the individual, family member or carer
  • Fortified drink recipes include: fortified milkshake, fortified soup, fortified smoothies, fortified hot chocolate, fortified malted drinks
  • The Focus on Undernutrition Fortified Drinks Recipes leaflet provides further ideas on preparing fortified drinks.

Moderate risk of undernutrition

If identified as a moderate risk of undernutrition using ‘MUST’ the following can be recommended:

  • two nourishing snacks a day between meals
  • nourishing drinks throughout the day
  • fortified (high calorie, high protein) diet
  • multivitamin and mineral tablet daily

If there are any concerns about weight loss or poor appetite it is important that advice is sought from a healthcare professional, such as a GP or a dietitian.

High risk of undernutrition

If identified as high risk of undernutrition using ‘MUST’ the following can be recommended:

  • two homemade fortified drinks each day
  • two nourishing snacks a day between meals
  • nourishing drinks throughout the day
  • fortified (high calorie, high protein) diet
  • multivitamin and mineral tablet daily

If there are any concerns about weight loss or poor appetite it is important that advice is sought from a healthcare professional, such as a GP or a dietitian.

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