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22 Ways to Increase Your Appetite

Ways to Increase Your Appetite

If your lack of appetite lasts for more than a couple of days, it can cause weight loss or malnutrition. Feeling less hungry during hot weather, or because you overindulged the day before, is perfectly normal. But losing your appetite long-term could affect your wellbeing, and even cause weight loss and malnutrition.

Not to mention the muscle gains and fitness goals in reach when you can increase your appetite and food consumption.

Your appetite is controlled by two hormones: ghrelin, which makes you think you’re hungry, and leptin, which tells your brain that your stomach is full. These hormones can be thrown out of whack for a variety of reasons, but luckily, there are a few things you can do to balance these chemicals out.

Even if your hormones are perfectly fine and you’re just looking for a few simple ways to eat more in an effort to bulk up, there are tons of tricks you can use. Keep in mind, if your loss of appetite comes seemingly out of nowhere or you’re dealing with any other health issues, it’s best to talk to a doctor about this since a lack of appetite can be a sign of an underlying condition.

Not having an appetite can be frustrating for anyone, especially people who are underweight and trying to gain weight or build mass.

Initially after a spinal cord injury, you may experience a decrease in appetite and dietary intake. This can be because of medical problems, changes in mood, poor appetite, difficulty chewing and swallowing, and taste changes.  Inadequate nutrient intake and a decrease in mobility can lead to weight and muscle loss. Weight and muscle loss can result in weakness, feeling tired, and an inability to participate in daily activities.

What Is Appetite?

Appetite is the natural desire a person feels to eat food. It differs from hunger, which is the body’s response to not having enough food. A person can be hungry with no appetite, have a strong appetite with no signs of hunger, or be hungry with an appetite.


While there are many signs to tell if a person has an appetite, the primary one is feelings of hunger. Hunger can show itself in many ways, including:

  • Cravings for food
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Stomach rumbles

Appetite isn’t constant—it can vary from day to day. For example. a person’s emotional state (such as feeling excitement, stress, or boredom) or the availability of preferred foods (if there are few foods in your home you enjoy, you might not feel as strong of a desire to eat them) may influence it.

What Causes Loss Of Appetite?

Loss of appetite can be temporary or long-term. The leading causes of a poor or absent appetite are:

  • Emotional distress
  • Depression
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Breakdown of relationships
  • Debilitating illnesses
  • Eating disorders
  • Serious illnesses that cause a lack of appetite include cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, COPD, hepatitis, HIV, and certain thyroid conditions.
  • Other conditions that trigger a loss of appetite include influenza, the common cold, urinary infections, chest infections, acid reflux, and diabetes.[2]
  • You may also experience a decreased appetite if you’re pregnant, constipated, or nauseous.[3]
  • Certain medications can cause a lack of a desire to eat. The main culprits are antidepressants, ADHD medications, painkillers, and chemotherapy
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression are common causes for disinterest in food

How to Increase Your Appetite

If poor appetite and weight loss persist, the doctor may prescribe medication to increase appetite. Some of these medications are listed below. It can take several weeks of use before appetite enhancement occurs, so take these medications as prescribed for at least a month to determine their effectiveness. Many of these medications have side effects that should be discussed with the doctor.

Eat Small Meals More Frequently

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.


It all goes back to when we were tiny babies. “Humans are programmed to have an opioid (opiate-like) response to a protein found in milk (casein) so that infants will continue their desire to consume adequate amounts of their mother’s milk,” explains Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. “Cheese, which is a concentrated form of milk, also induces this effect. These protein compounds, called casomorphins, combined with the high amount of fat and salt are what is responsible for the popular obsession with cheese. Thus, the more you have, the more you crave—as devised by nature.”

Stock Up on Favorite Foods

You’ll find that it’s much easier to eat something you really enjoy, so keep some favorite snacks on hand.6 If you’re not feeling up to making a trip to the grocery store, consider a grocery delivery service or asking a caregiver, family member, or friend to pick up some of your favorite foods and stock your fridge and shelves with foods you love to eat.

Consume More MCT Oil

Spiking coffee with MCT oil has gained popularity with keto and paleo dieters. The fat-rich substance fires up the metabolism and is thought to keep hunger at bay. Still, research suggests MCT oil actually increases appetite by stimulating the release of the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin (1). Caffeine is also a well-known appetite stimulant, so starting the day with this energizing drink can be a great way to dial up your intake of nutrient-dense calories while also stoking your appetite for the rest of the day.

If you’re worried about the fat-heavy drink being too greasy or leaving you feeling weighed down, don’t be. The medium-chain triglycerides in MCT Oil are potentially good for digestive health and metabolism. The short-chain fats digest more quickly than other fats, which help fuel energy and minimize the “heavy” feeling some people experience after fat-rich meals (2). You don’t have to limit your MCT oil intake to coffee, either. Adding a spoonful or two to shakes, salad dressings, or cereal is also an easy way to bulk up dishes with a few extra calories.

Cut The Sugary Drinks From Your Diet

Sucrose, the type of sugar found in soda, tricks you into feeling full. Besides the fact that soda is really bad for you, it messes with the hormones that regulate your appetite. If you want to maintain a healthy appetite, avoid soda, sweetened juice, and energy drinks.

The other forms of sugar, glucose and fructose, won’t have nearly the same impact on your hormones.

Yoghurt Is A Must

One cannot stress enough about how important yoghurt is for a child.

It’s a dairy product with healthy probiotics and calcium which are amazing for the appetite and immunity of the child. Yoghurt serves the purpose of a dessert as well.

Choose Nutrient-Rich

Yes, junk foods like crisps, cakes or pastries are high in calories, but they’re also low on nutrients.

Seek out healthy fats, protein and slower-release carbohydrates instead:5

  • Full-fat natural or Greek yoghurt with berries instead of ice cream
  • Nuts and seeds, not crisps
  • Malted fruit loaf rather than cake


Abdominal fullness or bloating can reduce your appetite. In such cases, carminative herbs and spices like cinnamon, black pepper, peppermint, thyme, etc. can reduce bloating and increase your appetite.

You Will Need
Cinnamon/Black pepper/Peppermint/Oregano

What You Have To Do
Sprinkle a good amount of cinnamon on baked goods or buttered toasts.
You can also add a mix of herbs like black pepper, oregano, thyme, etc. to a variety of dishes.

Add More Calories to Your Meals

Another way to increase your appetite and 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.

For example:

  • Add 45 calories: Cook your eggs with butter.
  • Add 80 calories: Cook your oatmeal with whole milk instead of water.
  • Add 80 calories: Add some olive oil and avocados to your salads.
  • Add 100 calories: Spread some peanut butter on apple slices for a snack.


Although juicing and juice cleanses are highly popular right now, the process used to make juice strips the most filling nutrient—fiber—from the sugary liquid,” explains Janel Funk, MS RD LDN. “This leaves you with a calorie-containing beverage that spikes your blood sugar, leading to a crash that leaves you hungrier.

Studies have shown that our bodies aren’t any more satiated with the calories in juice as opposed to those from food, so stick with water for thirst and hydration and eat whole fruits and vegetables with their fiber intact.” If you’re craving something to drink and not a snack, try this idea from Rebecca Lewis, RD for HelloFresh: “Blend the fruits and veggies that you were planning on juicing. If you can’t get past all the pulp, try adding some protein powder or a nut butter. The added protein and fat act in a similar way to fiber in slowing down the absorption of the foods into your bloodstream.”

Bring Out the Flavors

Perhaps part of the problem is that you can’t taste your foods, which can happen as a symptom of some illnesses and even as part of normal aging.9 Add herbs and spices to your meals to enhance the flavor. Or perhaps a dash of Tabasco or sriracha sauce will do the trick. Salt also enhances flavor, but if you have high blood pressure, you should speak to your doctor before adding more salt to your meals.

Use Water to Your Advantage

Drinking a glass of water just before eating is a science-backed weight-loss strategy. Water fills up the stomach, helping you feel fuller faster. Plus, the liquid can dilute stomach acid, which also helps slow digestion and prolong satiety. That’s good news for people looking to curb their calorie intake.

However, if you’re trying to bulk up, you should do the opposite and hold off on hydrating until after eating. That said, if you’re increasing your calories slowly — and you probably should be — many find it useful to drink a lot of water on a full stomach because it helps to stretch the stomach and prepare it for more volume over time. This is also an easier change to your diet than constantly mixing shakes and preparing food, so it’s a relatively easy and early step into bulking.

Avoid Pungent Or Strong Food

Most children don’t enjoy extreme odours or overpowering tastes.

If low appetite is an issue with your child, check if your kitchen has food odours and/or if your food has a strong taste of Indian masalas, garlic, and so on.

Eliminate these flavours. Chances are that your child will start eating properly.

Experiment With Your Food

One reason for a low appetite that is usually overlooked is being bored of the foods you are eating.

Whether you have got stuck in a rut and go through the same few meals week after week or always choose the easy (yet boring!) option, it may be time to shake things up a little.

Introducing new cuisines, you haven’t tried before and just generally being open to new dishes and snacks could reignite your appetite in a big way

Fennel Tea

Fennel seeds act as appetite boosters in adults and children. They stimulate the production of bile by the liver, thus promoting digestion. Studies show that fennel seeds can enhance food consumption and motivation to eat in rats

Trick Your Brain With Different Plate Sizes

If you have a poor appetite, seeing big portions of food can be overwhelming and discouraging.

A way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to trick your brain into thinking you are still eating small portions. You can do this by serving your food on a big plate instead of a small plate.

Some studies have shown that increases in plate size can make you serve larger food portions. This is true even when you do not like the food all that much.

In other words, you could eat more food if you serve it in a larger dish. This could increase your daily calorie intake, especially if you eat high-calorie foods.


Sugar and all of its counterparts (from artificial sweeteners to organic cane sugar and everything in between) are highly addictive because of its associated heightened dopamine release. “Given the fact that we are evolutionarily designed to seek out sweetness in order to survive and that highly concentrated sources of sugar are omnipresent in endless quantities, sugar addiction has become increasingly prevalent and a huge contributor to our current global healthcare crisis,” comments Hever.

“Refined and processed sweeteners are unrelenting in their ability to entice you to overeat and yet, don’t provide satiation, satiety, or nourishment.” Don’t swear off fruit, though: “Whole food sources of sugar, such as fruit, is different because fruit maintains its fiber and nutrients. That’s why you can swiftly consume a couple of candy bars or drink a huge cup of juice without feeling full, but eating 10 apples or pears would be challenging.

Try Cannabis

It’s hard to ignore the research — and the average anecdotal report — that pot stimulates the appetite. (5) Studies have suggested that it can increase ghrelin and leptin, hormones associated with appetite, it may cause your olfactory bulb to find food tastier and better smelling, and it could prompt your hypothalamus to signal that you’re hungry even when your stomach is full.

The appetite boosting properties are a big reason why cannabis is prescribed to patients undergoing chemotherapy, though it’s not available to everyone. (7) If it is legal where you live and you like it, though, talk to your doctor: You may be able to get a medical marijuana card to buy it at local dispensaries.

Some people may consider cannabis extract called CBD, which is easier to buy over the counter in the United States, a feasible appetite-increaser. Note that right now, research doesn’t suggest that it increases appetite as reliably as THC (the active mind-altering component of cannabis). But CBD may reduce stress and anxiety and reduce inflammation, which may help combat stress-related loss of appetite or moderate other symptoms related to loss of appetite.

Play/Exercise More

It’s a common knowledge that playing sports or exercising improves appetite. Don’t you think we forget this common idea when it comes to our children? If your child has a declining appetite, increase play time. You will see the hunger coming back!

Use Herbs and Spices

As well as helping your food taste divine, carminative herbs reduce the gas production and bloating that can put you off eating.

These appetite-aiding herbs and spices include: fennel, peppermint, black pepper, coriander, mint, ginger and cinnamon

Try using them in recipes or making them into a tea to see if they can help pep up your appetite.

They could even start to work before you’ve scoffed them down too. Cooking with aromatic herbs and spices can help trigger your appetite – just like when you walk through a shopping centre and smell the bakery or fast food restaurants, except in your own kitchen!

As they are so pungent, the hunger-inducing aromas may just get your mouth watering.

Bitter tonics, such as gentian, can also stimulate appetite and digestive-enzyme production.

Bitters tonics are another type of herb preparation, which can help increase appetite by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes. Examples of bitters tonics include gentian, blessed thistle and centaury.

You can introduce some of these herbs, spices or bitters into your diet by cooking with them, or you can consume them as teas or tinctures.

Vitamins To Increase Appetite

B vitamins are commonly used to increase appetite in adults, toddlers, and infants. They help to release energy from food and promote a normal appetite. A deficiency of any of the B vitamins can cause poor appetite and unhealthy digestion (7).

The recommended intake of these vitamins depends not only on the age but also on other medical conditions of the person. Consult your doctor to test for any deficiencies that may be causing loss of appetite. If a deficiency is confirmed, supplementation with B vitamins is recommended to increase the appetite.

Limit Your Fiber Intake

Fiber digests slowly and helps you feel more full, making it not so great for people struggling with low appetite. To avoid the filling effects of fiber, you may want to pick white rice over brown rice, sourdough bread over whole grains, and stick to lower-fiber fruits and veggies like bananas, skinless potatoes, melons, and stone fruits.

The recommended daily intake for adults is about 25 grams of fiber for females and 38 grams for males. If you’re keeping fiber relatively low but still eating a lot of calories from whole foods, there’s a decent chance you’ll hit that mark. If not (and to keep up digestive regularity, especially as you increase your calories), consider a fiber supplement like psyllium husk at the end of the day.

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