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Low Appetite? Try These 9 Tips to Get Enough Calories

a woman with a low appetite looking at a bowl and holding a spoon
Medical conditions or anxiety can cause a low appetite.

There are many reasons you may not have much of an appetite. Low appetite can be a by-product of chronic or acute health conditions, medical treatments, or medications. Your appetite may decrease as you age. It can also be a reaction to stress, anxiety, or mental health issues.

If you find that your appetite isn’t quite what it used to be, it’s still important to find ways to eat enough so you get the calories and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

Low Appetite? Tips to Stay Nourished

These 9 tips may help.

Eat Small Amounts of Food Frequently

If you don’t feel up to eating a full meal, have a snack every 2 – 4 hours, even if you don’t feel hungry.

Make Every Bite or Sip Count

Choose foods that have quality calories and are rich in important nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals (think peanut butter, avocados and sweet potatoes) and avoid filling up on foods that are high in calories but low in important nutrients, like potato chips or fried foods.

Sip on Soups and Smoothies

By blending fruits, veggies and whole-fat dairy into a smoothie or a soup, you can pack a lot of nutrition into every ounce and you may find it easier to sip than chew. Add protein powder or Greek yogurt for extra protein.

Have Easy-to-Prepare Foods Available

Don’t let the thought of food prep and cooking deter you from eating. Consider preparing food in large quantities so you can refrigerate or freeze individual portions for later.

Keep Ready-to-Eat Snacks on Hand

Healthy choices include nuts, dried or fresh fruit, crackers with hummus or nut butters, vegetable juice and nutritional drinks.

Chronic Low Appetite?

Your low appetite could be a sign of a serious health problem, so see your primary care provider. Don’t have one? Make an appointment at UVA.

Limit Drinks During Meals

Drinking can make you full so limit the amount of liquid you drink during mealtime. But make sure you drink enough throughout the day to stay well hydrated.

Accept Help When Offered

Take friends and family up if they offer to cook for you or deliver foods you enjoy eating.

Create a Pleasant Mealtime Atmosphere

Make mealtime more enjoyable by setting the table with pretty dishes and flowers or playing nice music.


Since stress can interfere with appetite, find relaxation strategies that help relieve tension.

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Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

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