As you age, you may begin to lose weight, either from illness or from a lack of appetite. Maintaining a healthy body weight is important, and there are steps you can take to achieve a healthy weight.
If you are underweight or have lost weight suddenly or for no apparent reason, see your GP to make sure there is no underlying medical reason for the weight loss.
Even if you don’t have any health problems, it’s quite common for older people to lose their appetite. You may be underweight simply because you are not eating enough and your diet does not provide you with enough energy or calories.
Being underweight can be especially serious for older people. This increases your risk of health problems, including breaking bones if you fall. It weakens your immune system, making you more prone to infections, and it increases your risk of deficient in important nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
However, you can take steps to improve your diet and get the energy and nutrients you need.
How to eat if you have lost your appetite?
As we age, it is common for our appetite to decrease and we may not feel like eating.
Even if you are underweight and have a reduced appetite, it is still important to get all the energy and nutrients your body needs.
There are 3 ways to do this:
Switch to smaller meals and frequent snacks, so you don’t have to worry about eating 3 large meals a day.
Increase your calorie intake by eating main courses with milk pudding and cheese, or vegetarian or vegan alternatives.
Avoid filling up on foods that are high in saturated fat or sugar, such as sugary fizzy drinks, cakes and biscuits.
Tips to increase your calorie intake
Try these healthy but still high-energy meal and snack ideas:
Porridge is made with whole (full-fat) milk, topped with fruit or dried fruit.
Sardines on toast
Peanut butter on toast
Eggs on toast
Soups with lentils, pasta or meat
Cottage / Shepherd’s Pie
Sprinkle beans on toast with cheese.
Milk drinks as a bedtime snack
Add more calories to your diet from healthy foods to help with weight gain:
Sprinkle grated cheese on delicious dishes.
Add cheese or milk to the soup.
Add ground or whole nuts, nut butters or seeds to dishes.
Add soy or pea protein powder to foods and drinks.
Spread avocado on toast for a high-energy and healthy breakfast.
Pour white sauce (made from butter, flour and milk) over fish or vegetables.
Replace 1 cup of tea or coffee each day with a cup of warm full-fat milk or a dairy-free alternative such as soy milk.
Add milk, butter or dairy-free spread to the mashed potatoes.
Eat with friends and family.
If you struggle to get interested in food or have lost the motivation to eat, try to eat with friends or family as often as possible. Lunch clubs are also a great way to make mealtimes more social.
Eat foods that are easy to prepare.
If you find it difficult to prepare food, try the following tips.
Choose prepared foods with less salt. Finding prepared meals that are nutritionally balanced can be difficult. Read about food labels to learn how to make healthy food choices.
Keep some tins and dry fruits at home. It’s an alternative to fresh fruit, requires no preparation and can count in your 5 days. Tinned fruit is also easy to eat if you have dental problems.
Keep some frozen and canned vegetables at home. They are easy to prepare and can count on your 5 a day.
Buy puddings and snacks that come in individual containers, such as yogurt and rice pudding.
Replace or supplement a meal with a high-calorie beverage.
Improve your appetite with exercise
Physical activity is especially important for older people. It can help you stay healthy, mobile and independent.
Being active helps keep your heart healthy and lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke – even if you’re underweight. The more active you are, the more likely you are to feel hungry.
To find out how much physical activity is recommended and what activity counts, see:
Physical activity guidelines for adults, if you’re under 65.
If you are 65 years of age or older.
If you are underweight, have mobility problems or have a disability, the amount of physical activity you need may be different from other people your age. Your GP or practice nurse can advise you about this.
Have your food delivered.
If you struggle with cooking or grocery shopping for yourself, consider getting outside help.
You may be entitled to hot and frozen ready meals delivered to your home (often called meals on wheels), provided by your local council’s social services. There is usually a charge for the service.