Hospiscare is campaigning for fair statutory funding for our hospice. To find out more, please see www.hospiscare.co.uk/fair 


Ask our chef

Lil Badcock, our Chef Manager, answers your question about providing adequate nutrition at the end of life

My loved one can’t eat very much, how can I help keep up their calorie intake?

As your loved one nears the end of their life, they may experience a loss of appetite or find the physical act of chewing and swallowing more difficult. To ensure that they are maintaining their weight, or gaining weight if needed, they need to take in more calories than they are burning. There are several simple changes you can make to their diet in order to do this:

Replace low-fat foods with full-fat alternatives

Use whole milk and cream when cooking or making drinks and replace low-fat spreads with butter or nut butters.

Provide small meals and regular snacks

By reducing the portion sizes of meals, this will allow for regular snacking which will help build up calories without your loved one feeling overly full. Try snack foods such as:

  • Bread sticks, crackers, olives, guacamole, hummus
  • Trail mix, nuts and seeds – half a cup adds approximately 200 calories
  • Fruit with nut butter – an apple or banana with 2tbsp of peanut butter adds approximately 300 calories

Reduce liquids with meals

Avoid providing your loved one with drinks 30 minutes before eating and reduce their liquid intake with meals to prevent them feeling full.

Add extras or condiments to meals

Try topping potatoes or vegetables with grated full-fat cheese or add honey, chopped nuts or dried fruit to cereals or porridge. Introduce mayonnaise, hummus or avocado to sandwiches or plain crackers.

It is important to continue to provide your loved one with as healthy and balanced a diet as possible, whilst also focusing on calorie rich foods:

  • Proteins, such as red meat, pork, oily fish, whole milk, eggs, cheese, full-fat yogurts and cream
  • Carbohydrates, such as potatoes, brown rice, pinto beans and whole grain pasta and bread
  • Fats, such as nuts, nut butters, olives, butter, mayonnaise, high fat cheeses, avocados and salad dressings.

Many of us would assume that high calorie junk foods and sugary drinks would be helpful to introduce but as these are not a healthy source of weight gain, these types of food and drinks should be avoided.

If you’re still struggling to increase your loved one’s calorie intake, you should consult their GP, Hospiscare nurse or a dietician. There are supplement drinks and powders available but these should only be used following advice from a healthcare professional.