Eat Better to Feel Better – Improving your nutrition during and after your hospital stay

Jan Fillinger

  • Reference Number: HEY-1379/2023
  • Departments: Dietetics
  • Last Updated: 25 October 2023


When you are unwell you often do not eat or drink as much as you normally would. You may find that your taste is different, you feel full easily or you have no appetite. Eating smaller amounts and missing meals can lead to unwanted weight loss which slows down your recovery.

Eating enough is important to help your body recover more quickly from illness, infection and surgery. A good nutritional intake can help wounds to heal and to build strength.

Please Note:  The information contained in this leaflet may not be suitable for you if you are following a special diet e.g. low potassium, low residue.

General Advice for when you are in hospital

During your hospital admission, the nursing team will calculate a nutritional screening score for you. The score indicates your risk of becoming malnourished and is based on a history of weight changes, how well you are eating, your medical condition and any special dietary needs that you may have.

The score from the nutritional screening is the start of your nutritional care plan. If you have scored as moderate or high risk, you will be offered nutritional supplements twice a day to help maintain your nutrition. You will also be provided with the energy dense menu so that you can choose foods that are higher in energy and protein. If you require a different menu for a special diet, energy dense menu options are identified with this symbol: ↗

You can also try the following to help improve your nutritional intake during your admission:

  • Choose protein rich foods twice a day e.g. meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, beans and pulses, meat alternatives.
  • Choose milky drinks or milk from the drinks trolley
  • Choose a hot main meal at least once a day. Cooked breakfasts are available. Please order with the nursing team.
  • Include a dessert at least once a day, e.g. milk pudding, yoghurt, sponge and custard, mousse.
  • Ask to see the snack list and request additional snacks. Snacks available include high protein mousse, cheese and crackers, thick and creamy yoghurts, cheesecake and more.

Advice for when at home

It is important to maintain your nutrition once you are home as this will help with your recovery. Where possible, continue to have small, frequent meals and snacks until your appetite returns to normal.

Other helpful hints for when you are home:

  • Nutritious drinks are a good way of boosting your energy and protein intake and can include milkshakes, smoothies, malted drinks and fruit juices. Milk alternatives can be used if you follow a plant based diet.
  • Ready meals (frozen, chilled or tinned) need less effort to prepare and are helpful if you tire easily

Ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian if:       

  • You continue to lose weight or you are concerned about your appetite
  • You are on a special diet or there are any health concerns which have previously required you to limit fat and/or sugar in your diet

Should you require further advice, please do not hesitate to contact the Dietetics Department on tel no: 01482 674490

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.