Making small changes to your diet and daily routine can help increase your appetite and ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs.
A loss of appetite occurs when you have a low desire to eat. Different factors can cause poor appetite, including mental and physical illness.
Not having an appetite can be frustrating for anyone, especially people with underweight or those trying to gain weight or build mass.
If your lack of appetite lasts for more than a couple of days, it can cause weight loss or malnutrition. Therefore, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional to determine the cause and best course of treatment.
However, there are several strategies you can try to increase your appetite and ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs each day.
This article lists 13 easy ways to increase your appetite and daily food intake.
Eating three full meals might seem like a challenging task when you don’t have a healthy appetite.
A more motivating way to eat is to divide your three main meals into five or six smaller meals.
As your appetite improves, you can start increasing the portions of these meals or adding more ingredients to consume more calories throughout the day.
For example, if you’re eating a tuna sandwich, incorporate some veggies and cheese to add more calories and nutrients.
Have five or six smaller meals per day instead of three large ones. As your appetite improves, you can start increasing portions and adding more ingredients.
People with poor appetites tend to eat high calorie foods like candy, chips, ice cream, and baked goods to gain weight.
These kinds of foods might seem more appetizing and contain high amounts of calories, but they are often lacking in other important nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals.
There are plenty of other foods that are high in calories and can provide other nutrients, such as protein and heart-healthy fats.
For example, instead of ice cream for dessert, you can eat 1 cup of plain, full-fat Greek yogurt. Add some berries and cinnamon for sweetness.
Similarly, if you feel like eating pizza, you can make your own and add extra veggies and some protein for extra nutrients.
Decrease your intake of empty calories. Instead, make easy substitutions to focus on more nutritious foods that contain protein, healthy fats, and whole grains.
Another way to ensure you’re eating enough during the day is to add more calories to your meals.
One way to do this is to cook your foods with calorie-dense ingredients like butter, nut butters, olive oil, or whole milk.
- Add 104 calories: Cook your eggs with 1 tablespoon (tbsp), or 14 grams (g), of butter.
- Add 149 calories: Try adding 1 cup, or 237 milliliters (mL), of whole milk to your oatmeal instead of water.
- Add 120–126 calories: Drizzle 1 tbsp (14 g) of olive oil or half an avocado to your salad.
- Add 204 calories: Spread 2 tbsp (32 g) of peanut butter on apple slices for a snack.
Simple additions like these can pack more healthy calories into your meals and increase your total calorie intake.
Add calorie-rich ingredients as you’re preparing your meals to consume more calories throughout the day
Cooking and eating a meal with others may help stimulate your appetite more than eating alone.
In fact, according to one 2022 study, eating alone may be associated with a poor appetite (
To make foods more pleasant to eat, you can invite friends and family over for meals. If they cannot come over to keep you company, try eating while watching TV. These strategies can help by turning your attention away from the food.
Interestingly, research shows that eating alone more frequently may also be linked to lower diet quality and inadequate nutrient intake (
Turning meals into occasions for socialization and entertainment may help you enjoy your food more and could increase your appetite.
Having meals with friends and family or eating them in front of the TV can distract you from the food you are eating and lead you to eat more.
Hunger usually cues people to eat. However, if you do not get hungry, you might not be able to rely on your appetite to remind you when to eat.
If this is the case, try scheduling your meals and setting a reminder at each mealtime to make sure you’re eating regularly.
Additionally, having a regular meal schedule is important for helping you consume enough calories and nutrients every day.
Scheduling and setting reminders for meals can help you keep track of your food intake.
Consuming breakfast on a daily basis is important when you want to increase your appetite and gain weight.
A review study showed that skipping breakfast can actually lead you to eat less throughout the day (
Furthermore, another study found that skipping meals could reduce overall daily calorie intake and decrease diet quality (
If you’re trying to eat more, having breakfast every day is as important as having regular meals throughout the day.
Eating breakfast every day could promote your appetite and increase your overall daily calorie intake and diet quality.
High fiber diets have been proven to promote feelings of fullness and decrease calorie intake for those looking to lose weight (
Even though high fiber foods are recommended in a balanced diet, they can slow down digestion and keep you feeling full for longer. Thus, you may want to moderate your intake if you’re looking to increase your appetite.
Eating a low fiber diet could prevent you from feeling too full, and might help you eat more during the day.
However, keep in mind that this should only be used as a temporary strategy for increasing appetite, as following a low fiber diet long-term may have negative effects on health (
If your appetite doesn’t improve after a few days, consult a doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
Decreasing the amount of fiber in your diet could reduce feelings of fullness and make you eat more food during the day
Drinking your calories might be a more motivating way to increase your calorie intake than having to chew your food when you do not feel too hungry.
Some research also suggests that liquids are less satiating than solid foods, which might be ideal if your appetite is low (
A practical way to drink your calories is by replacing some of your meals with nutritious, high calorie drinks.
Smoothies, milkshakes, and juices can all be good meal replacement drinks. Try making them using nourishing ingredients like fruits and vegetables.
You can also add good sources of protein like whole milk, yogurt, or protein powder for extra calories and nutrients.
Drinking your calories and nutrients instead of eating them could help motivate you to consume your food.
Eating big meals can be intimidating, whereas small and easy-to-eat snacks can be more convenient and take less effort to increase your food intake.
Snacks can also be helpful while you are on the go.
However, snacks are not meant to replace your big meals but rather to complement them. So avoid eating snacks close to mealtime because it could affect your appetite.
Here are some examples of healthy snacks:
- fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges
- protein bars or granola bars
- Greek yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit
- nut butter and crackers
- salty snacks like popcorn or trail mix
Eat more of the foods you like. This will help motivate you to eat and stimulate your appetite.
The logic for this rule is pretty simple — choose foods you like.
When you sit down in front of a meal you know you will enjoy, you’re probably much more inclined to eat it than a dish you find unappealing.
In fact, research shows that if you can choose what to eat, you will tend to eat more of it more often than if you did not have the option to pick your foods (
To ensure you consume more of those foods, it is important you take some time to plan and prepare them ahead of time so you can always have them available.
Eat more of the foods you like. This will help motivate you to eat and stimulate your appetite.
Drinking fluids prior to or during your meals could affect your appetite negatively and make you eat less (
In fact, some research suggests that consuming water prior to meals can reduce calorie intake and help with weight loss (
In one 2007 study, this effect was seen in older adults but not younger adults (
Try to limit your water intake 30 minutes before meals and see if your appetite improves.
Drinking water or other liquids before or during meals can affect your appetite and make you eat less.
A deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals could be reducing your appetite.
If you would like to increase your appetite, consider talking to a doctor or dietitian to determine whether supplementation may be beneficial.
A few supplements that have been shown to help include:
- Zinc: A lack of zinc in the diet can lead to appetite loss and taste disturbances that could promote a low desire to eat (
- Thiamine: A thiamine deficiency could cause decreased appetite and increased resting energy expenditure, leading to weight loss (
- Fish oil: Some studies have shown that this supplement may increase appetite and reduce feelings of fullness after meals (
Some vitamin and mineral deficiencies can produce a lack of appetite. Taking certain supplements may give you an appetite boost.
Keeping a food diary can help you track your meals and ensure you are consuming enough calories throughout the day.
Recording your food intake and hunger levels can also help you understand how your appetite is progressing.
Aim to record every meal and snack, no matter how small it is. When your appetite is poor, every calorie counts toward your daily goal.
Keeping a food diary can help you track your food intake and promote better eating habits.
Many factors can affect your appetite, including physical conditions, mental conditions, medications, and vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
However, small changes can make a big difference, including making changes to your diet and adjusting your mealtimes.
If you have a hard time eating, it’s always a good idea to check with a doctor, who can advise you about boosting your hunger and gaining weight.