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How To Eat More If You Have Poor Appetite Or Early Fullness


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Appetite loss is when you do not feel like eating, or you feel like eating, but not very much, or you feel full quickly.

The exact cause of appetite loss is not known.

The following tips have worked for other people with a poor appetite or who feel full quickly.

Eat often.  For instance

  • Eat small meals or snacks whenever you want. You don't have to eat 3 regular meals each day.
  • Try to eat a little bit of food every two to three hours while you are awake. Use a timer or alarm clock to remind you when to eat. (There is an alarm clock built into smart phones or you can download an app).
  • Keep snacks handy everywhere you spend time just in case hunger does show up. For instance, keep snacks visible in all parts of your home, at work, in your car,  in your locker at the gym or in your gym bag. (Make sure the snacks are wrapped or in a container so they don't attract rodents).
  • Carry portable snacks with you. For instance, granola or energy bars, beanut butter crackers, or small boxes of raisins.
  • Eat your favorite foods whenever you want. You can just as easily eat a dinner food at breakfast as you can eat a breakfast food at dinner time.
  • Eat a bedtime snack (unless you are having trouble falling asleep).

When you do eat:

  • Look for high calorie, high protein foods and recipes.
  • Add calories to your food. For tips, click here.
  • Nuts and peanut butter have a lot of calories
  • Don't drink liquids with your meals. Beverages can lead to feeling full. Drink beverages between meals. If you need to drink to help you swallow food comfortably, only drink the minimum amount needed.
  • Vary your diet.
    • Try new foods and recipes.
    • Fall back on favorite foods when necessary.
  • Change the form of food. For instance, make a milkshake or a smoothie.
  • For a list of easy to eat snacks, click here.
  • Avoid low calorie foods that fill you up. For instance, lettuce, broth, diet soda.
  • Eat larger meals when you feel like it.
  • If your doctor approves, do light exercise an hour before meals.

If drinking is easier than eating solid food

Try nourishing liquids. For instance:

  • Meal replacement drinks such as Ensure, Sustecal or Boost. Experiment with flavors to find the flavors that taste best to you.
    • Concerning Ensure:
      • If you have a low income, you may be able to get Ensure for free for up to a year. Call 800.222.6885 Option #5 You will be mailed an application to take to your doctor for completion and fax back to thecompany.
      • For higher income people, Ensure has coupons available to help reduce the cost. See: offsite link. For couplons: offsite link. (You will have to answer a series of marketing type questions to obtain the coupons)
    • It is worth checking other supplement companies to see if they have programs similar to Ensure. Search on the name of the product in your favorite search engine.
  • Pureed vegetables or soups
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Vegetable and fruit juices
  • Drink clear liquids throughout the day that add calories or nutrients. For instance: soup, juice, soy-based drinks with protein. For a list of clear liquids, click here

Try being active and getting physical exercise. For example:

  • Take a walk before meals whenever you can. Exercise can help improve appetite and make you feel hungrier.
  • If you are in bed, get up and walk around. While in bed, there are exercises you can do such as range-of motion or yoga.
  • NOTE: Check with your doctor before exercising.

Change your mealtime routine. For example:

  • Eat when your appetite is greatest. For example, for many people this is in the morning. Consider having your main meal of the day early.
  • Eat in a different place.
  • Make the atmosphere more pleasant during mealtime. For example, with candle light, or colorful place settings, flowers or background music.
  • Make the food attractive.
  • Stick to a set time each day to eat - whether you feel like it or not.
  • Eat with friends or family members. When eating alone, listen to the radio or watch TV.

If you live alone:

  • You might want to arrange for Meals on Wheels offsite link or similar program or a commercial service to bring food to you. Ask your doctor, nurse, social worker or local disease specific nonprofit about services in your area as well as companies that deliver meals - including ready-to-cook..
  • Invite friends or neighbors to eat with you. If the meal is drawn out with conversation, you may find it easier to eat more.

Consider drinking small amounts of alcohol

  • Small amounts of alcohol can help you relax and increase your appetite.
  • Before drinking beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages, check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out if it would interact negatively with any of the drugs you take. Alcohol may reduce their effectiveness or create negative side effects.
  • Keep in mind that over the long term, drinking more than 2 drinks a day for males or 1 a day for females can cause cancer.

Consider using Marinol or Marijuana

  • Marinol is a medication which has been shown to increase appetite. Marinol is a synthetic version of a main ingredient found in marijuana. Marinol requires a doctor’s prescription.
  • Marijuana has been shown to increase appetite. Before using marijuana, check to find out the legal status of use for medical purposes in your state. To learn more, click here

Consider food to be a medication.  

  • Food is the fuel that helps your body fight disease.
  • Set times each day to take your "medications."  
  • Consume a pre-set minimum amount of food each time.

Consider possible reasons for loss of appetite

Consider whether there is a reason other than a treatment or your physical condition which could be addressed. For instance:

  • Are you depressed? If so, depression can be treated. (For signs to look for, click here). 
  • Are you suffering from fatigue? If so, click here.
  • Are you suffering from constipation, nausea, pain or other side effects that interfere with appetite? If so, ask your doctor about medications to help relieve these symptoms. (For tips about dealing with each of them on your own, see the documents in "To Learn More.")

If you cannot eat enough food to maintain your weight

Let your doctor know. He or she may have a medical remedy to suggest (such as changing a treatment or decreasing a drug dose).


  • Be sure to have adequate liquid intake to prevent dehydration. Perhaps drinking through a straw makes it easier to drink. If you can't drink, suck on ice chips or even a popsicle.
  • On days when you cannot eat at all, don't worry. Do what you can to make yourself feel better. Return to eating as soon as you can. If you still can't eat after a few days, call your doctor or other health care provider.

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