Managing Malnutrition during Self-Isolation

April 27, 2020 3 min read

In our previous blog post, we talked about the importance of looking out for those at risk of malnutrition in the community. Oral nutrition support should be considered in patients who have inadequate oral intake of food and fluids to meet their nutritional requirements. This blog post explores strategies for optimising nutritional status in ‘at risk’ individuals whilst self-isolating, including food-first tips and simple recipe ideas. 

What is a Food First Approach?

Food First is a simple way of providing enhanced nutrition to those who are, or who are at risk of becoming malnourished. It can be useful for patients who still have a good appetite. Strategies include food fortification, additional snacks and nourishing drinks. 

Food Fortification

Food fortification increases the nutritional density of the diet without increasing the volume of food consumed.

Several foods which can be used to fortify the diet include:

  • Double cream
  • Full fat milk
  • Honey/syrup/sugar
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Milk powder
  • Evaporated milk
  • Oils such as olive oil

You could encourage patients to add double cream and/or grated cheese to mashed potato or scrambled eggs. Honey, sugar and syrups could be added to fresh or stewed fruit, porridge or drinks such as tea and coffee. Whilst butter could be spread thickly on toast, crumpets or scones or added to cooked vegetable or potato dishes.

Where possible, encourage patients to switch from low-fat, low-sugar foods to regular (full-fat) versions. This goes against typical healthy eating guidance for the general population, which may be confusing to patients, relatives and carers. Therefore, it may be necessary to explain the rationale behind choosing these higher-calorie, higher-fat options in the context of nutrition support. 

Additional Snacks

Additional snacks eaten between meals can be used to improve nutritional intake. During self-isolation, suitable examples may include:

  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Crisps and nuts
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Yoghurts
  • Custard pots
  • Mini sausages or pork pies
  • Scones

To discourage food waste, you could suggest that patients choose individually wrapped snack items. 

Homemade Nourishing Drinks

Nourishing drinks are ideal for those with reduced appetite. Switching drinks such as tea, coffee and sugar-free squash for more nourishing drinks such as fruit cordials, milkshakes, hot chocolate and full-fat or fortified milk is an easy way to increase the calorie and protein content in the diet. 

Fortified Milk

Adding skimmed milk powder to milk is an easy way to increase the calorie and protein content. The fortified milk can then be used in other milk-based drinks, coffee, porridge and milk puddings (i.e. custard). Adding 4 tbsp dried milk powder to 1 pint of whole milk provides an additional 200 calories and 20g protein. 


  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 4 tbsp dried milk powder


Mix the dried milk powder with a little milk to form a paste. Gradually whisk in the rest of the milk using a fork or a small whisk. Store the fortified milk in a covered jug in the fridge and consume throughout the day.

Nutrition Information

570 calories, 37.2g protein


Oral Nutrition Supplements

AYMES® are keen to support a Food First Approach, which is why AYMES oral nutritional supplements come in a wide range of flavours, including sweet, savoury and neutral flavours, all of which can be used to fortify food or can be added to homemade nourishing drinks. AYMES have a range of delicious recipe ideas to use with patients who would benefit from nourishing drinks.