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Improving nutritional intake

6 out of 10 carers worry about the nutritional intake of the person they care for – read our information and top tips and find out how you can improve nutritional intake

If you are worried that someone you care for is struggling to eat enough food, trying to base their meals and snacks on the following foods may help, as they are high in energy and protein. Food which provides protein and energy:

  • meat, oily fish, eggs, nuts, full fat dairy, such as yoghurt or cheese

Foods which are a great source of energy:

  • pasta, potatoes, bread, rice, crackers or oatcakes, and snacks such as biscuits, cakes, chocolate or crisps

Furthermore, some practical tips to help improve nutritional intake include:

  • Eating small, frequent meals and snacks every 2-3 hours.
  • Avoid drinking fluids at the same time as eating. Whilst keeping well hydrated is very important, drinking during or just before a meal may limit how much is eaten. However anyone who has specific advice from their health professional regarding fluids, should continue to follow this.
  • Get some fresh air outside or sit by an open window prior to, or during eating.
  • Use smaller portions on small plates.
  • Consume nourishing drinks based on milk such as Complan.

BAPEN has designed a simple self-assessment tool for you to check whether the person you care for is at risk of being underweight and malnourished.

Important notes
  • Anyone who has other conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol should always seek personal advice from their health professional, before taking these steps.
  • This advice offers short-term solutions to help build up nutritional intake, for example after illness. Anyone experiencing problems in the longer term should speak to their GP or other health professional
When food is not enough

Since not everyone is able to eat the extra food required to reduce their nutrition gap, medical nutrition has been specifically designed to be used under medical supervision for those who find it difficult to get adequate nutrition from their normal diet.

Medical nutrition is a scientifically formulated liquid food that is available in the form of a drink containing energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. There are also dessert, yoghurt and soup style versions available.

Medical nutrition along with dietary advice may help to fill the nutrition gap and improve nutritional intake. This improved nutritional intake can lead to benefits which often include a better chance of gaining weight, improving strength and improving independence as well as helping the body to heal itself.

For advice about medical nutrition, speak to your GP.

Carers UK is working in partnership with Nutricia to help improve understanding about nutrition and care. We have a newly updated resource which you can find out about here: Spotlight on: Caring and nutrition

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