Achieving Healthy Weight Gain

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for good health. A lot of attention is paid to problems associated with being overweight. Being underweight or suffering from unintentional weight loss can lead to health problems too. It is important to identify these issues.

Have you experienced any of the following?

  • a long-term loss of appetite and not feeling quite yourself
  • finding clothes, jewellery, or dentures have become loose
  • losing weight without any intention to
  • eating less than you used to
  • currently recovering from an illness

If you have answered YES to any of the above, you may be at risk of being malnourished. Malnutrition is a lot more common than we think, and affects over 3 million people in the UK.

Consequences of malnutrition
How do we address malnutrition?
Fortifying your food
Regular snacks
Nourishing drinks
How can HILS help?

Consequences of malnutrition:

  • lack of energy
  • reduced strength
  • poorer immune system
  • increased risk of infection

Malnutrition is preventable and can often be addressed without the need for any medication.

How do we address malnutrition?

By eating plenty of foods rich in nutrients we can prevent further weight loss, and gain weight if we need to. This may sound daunting if you have lost your appetite or are unsure which foods to eat. But don’t worry, it’s quite easy when you know how, and there are three main ways to achieve this:

  1. Food fortification: Adding little extras to the food you already eat
  2. Snacks: having small high energy snacks between meals
  3. Nourishing drinks: packed with important nutrients

How much extra do I need?

If you are slightly underweight or have unintentionally lost some weight: you should aim to add an extra 500 calories each day

If you are very underweight or have unintentionally lost a lot of weight: you should aim to add 500-1000 extra calories each day

Adding extra calories will help you re-gain lost weight or prevent you from losing any more.

Generally we shouldn’t have to eat or drink much more than we usually do. Instead, you can choose options with more calories. Add little extras to foods to enrich them with additional calories and protein. This keeps your portions the same size.

Fortifying your food

Fortifying means adding little extras to meals. The aim is to provide more calories, protein, and other nutrients. You should also choose meals that are higher in energy (calories). These are marked as ‘HE’ on the HILS menu.

If you are preparing a meal yourself, here are a few good ideas on how to fortify the food:

Breakfast Ideas


  • swap semi-skimmed milk for enriched milk see recipe here
  • add an extra topping such as 1 tablespoon of: honey / chocolate spread / a few dates /chopped banana

Toast or crumpets:

  • choose standard spread instead of low-fat
  • add peanut butter / sardines / scrambled eggs / cheese / cream cheese / paté / lemon curd / chocolate spread

Ideas for Light meals

Egg omelette:

  • add a tablespoon of skimmed-milk powder
  • a dash of enriched milk
  • a generous knob of butter or full-fat spread
  • full-fat cream
  • 2oz grated cheese


  • add a tablespoon of cream, a knob of butter and a few croutons
  • you could also serve with a buttered crumpet

Pudding ideas:


  • try adding honey / cream / creamy yoghurt to fresh fruit


  • choose cakes with icing, or add cream or custard

Yogurts, trifles & puddings:

  • always choose full-fat

Our breakfast and tea service can provide options that have more calories and protein. Please get in touch with the Nutrition & Wellbeing team if you are interested in finding out more.

Have regular snacks

  • you should aim to have a snack between each meal
  • these should be packed full of calories and protein to help you get well again
  • they should be small enough so they don’t fill you up

Each of the snacks below provides at least 150 calories and a few important grams of protein too:

  • chocolate chip cookie
  • full-fat creamy yoghurt
  • rice pudding
  • cheesy crackers
  • chocolate muffin
  • dried fruit & nuts

Top Tip – when choosing a snack, try to avoid anything labelled as low-fat, low-calorie, or diet and choose the full-fat versions instead

Nourishing drinks

Try to have 1-2 nourishing drinks each day, using enriched milk - recipe here.

Benefits of using enriched milk:

  • 1 pint of enriched milk provides 580 calories, 38g protein, and 52g carbohydrate
  • the nutrients in enriched milk help promote repair and recovery from illness
  • enriched milk helps maintain weight, promote weight gain, and prevent unintentional weight loss

There are ready to drink versions of these nourishing drinks, such as Complan and Build-up, available in your local chemist or supermarket.

Enriched milk recipe

  • you need 4 tablespoons of skimmed milk powder and 1 pint of blue top whole milk
  • whisk the milk powder into enough milk to make a paste, then add the rest of the milk and mix well
  • you can make up enriched milk in your free HILS water jug and keep it in your fridge to use throughout the day

Milk powder is readily available in supermarkets at a very low price. It is usually located near the UHT milk or baking section.

Five ways to use your enriched milk:

  1. Use in your hot drinks, like milky coffee or hot chocolate, throughout the day
  2. Pour on your cereal or use to make porridge
  3. Use to make a nourishing cold drink such as milkshake; please ask us for recipes
  4. Drink a glass of enriched milk with a snack
  5. Use it to make custard or sauces, and add it to soups

How can HILS help?

Provide extra food and drink

If you have been identified as at risk of being malnourished, we can provide you with high energy snacks. You can select the snacks you would like.

Offer fun education sessions

We can provide information and advice sessions for you, your family, friends, or support network to help you get the best nutrition possible.

Provide information

We have a variety of nutritional resources available, including recipes.

Tailor your menu choices

We can provide you with higher energy meals. They are marked ‘HE’ on our menu. Higher energy means the meal contains more calories to prevent further weight loss, and help promote weight gain so you can achieve a healthy weight.

Achieving a Healthy Weight Gain (PDF)

This resource has been compiled using available current evidence and has been approved by a team of dietitians and nutritionists. The information is for general use and should not replace individual tailored advice given by a healthcare professional.

For further information, please contact your local Support Team or contact our Nutrition & Wellbeing Team directly here.

If you are a health or social care professional and require leaflets for your team or clients, then please contact us