Having been a nurse for more than 40 years, I know what a challenge it can be to get some one who doesn’t feel well, is going through treatment or has lost their appetite, to get them to eat.

Lets face it, food is our fuel and is needed to help us heal. Over the years, I have given a lot of advice on “powering up our foods” to maximize our bodies abilities to heal.

During illness and recovery, the need for good nutrition increases significantly, but sometimes our appetite decreases, so there is the challenge. I love taking meals to those who are in need and recently I took a meal to a lady undergoing chemotherapy.

Before I made my menu, I asked her what was not tasting good to her. She thanked me for asking in advance and shared that everyone was bringing meals with tomatoes and it tasted just like metal to her.

Powering up our foods is a way to boost calories, protein and other nutrients for those who cannot get enough nutrition from normal foods or who struggle to maintain their weight.

Some general tips are:

• Focus on food first. Make sure your loved one is getting foods that they like. Try to provide the individual’s favorite foods and cater to preferences as much as possible.

• Be sure they are being provided with a conducive environment to eat. We are social creatures and meals tend to be social in nature. Sit and eat with the person and try to eat the same thing to increase the likelihood that they will eat.

• Cook foods at home as the smell will increase appetite.

• Allowing someone to eat for themselves is very important. Try finger foods or things that they can eat easily.

• Keep meal times and routines the same.

• Have multiple small meals a day, rather than three larger ones.

• Have nourishing snacks or drinks available.

• Reheat food as necessary to keep them hot.

• Gentle activity before meals may help increase appetite.

• Most importantly, eat a wide variety of foods.

Sometimes people make the mistake of letting others eat or drink whatever they want and it may all be junk, like sugary drinks. Our bodies need more than just calories. Protein, vitamins and minerals are often lacking and are essential to healing.

So fortifying your foods with good ingredients is necessary.

According to the American Dietetics Association, calorie dense foods such as butter, mayonnaise, half and half or sour cream can be added to lower calorie foods to boost the impact of each bite of food.

High protein items can be added to boost the protein value. Powdered milk, cheese, eggs, and peanut butter are a few examples.

For instance, you can fortify milk and use it in all kinds of recipes. Just add 5 tablespoons of skimmed milk powder to one pint of skimmed milk. Before: 176 kcal, 8.65 g protein, 12.42g carbs, 0.42g fat After: 239kcal, 24.1g protein, 36.3g carbs, 0.7g fat Think of all the things you could add this milk to?

• Use in tea/coffee

• Use to make nourishing drinks like Ovaltine, hot chocolate, carnation instant breakfast

• Pour over cereals

• Use to make puddings, instant desserts, custard

• Add to cream soups

Recently I was in the grocery store refrigerator section. I overheard a lady telling a friend that they had just left the doctors office and he told her that her husband needed to be eating more protein and fat due to his weight loss.

She shared with the friend that she tries but he just couldn’t eat meat so she was there to buy yogurt. She had a fat-free yogurt in her hand.

I just couldn’t help myself. I approached and explained that I had overheard her conversation and that I was a nurse and offered to help. She gladly accepted.

I was able to show her the labels for both the one in her hand and then showed her the one I was holding which was a 4 percent milk fat Greek yogurt and much to her surprise she did not realize the difference.

Hers: 130 calories, 2.5g fat, 9g carbs, 15g protein. Mine: 230 calories, 9g fat, 11g carbs, 25g protein. Almost twice the nutrition without twice the volume.

Here are some other ways of fortifying foods:

• Add cream, yogurt, evaporated or condensed milk or powdered milk to foods to make them more nourishing

• Use powdered potatoes to cakes, gravies, soups to add calories and serve as a thickener

• Use powdered peanuts to add to cereals, cookies, smoothies to add protein

• Sugar, honey, syrup or jelly can be added to foods to boost their calories

• Cheese can be grated and sprinkled onto cooked vegetables, omelettes, potatoes, soups, baked beans, pizzas or used in dishes

• Extra egg can be added to recipes for cakes, biscuits and pancakes

• Add finely chopped boiled egg to salads, rice, sauces and mashed potatoes

• Butter or olive oil can be added over foods to add fat

• Supplement your diet with meal replacement drinks

• Add lots of vegetables to soups or sauces then puree it all together to add minerals

• Add Quinoa to food to add protein and antioxidants — My favorite.

Quinoa has been used for centuries and is native to South America. I first had it on a mission trip to Ecuador and I knew then it could be very useful for fortifying foods.

Why is it so great? Quinoa is high in fiber. One cup of cooked quinoa has 5 grams of fiber. Whole grains, such as quinoa, contain all three parts of the original grain — the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains are stripped of the bran and germ and are only left with the endosperm, or starchy part of the grain.

Quinoa is a plant based complete protein. One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. Quinoa is unique among whole grains because it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein and is great for vegetarians.

Quinoa is also high in vitamin and minerals. Quinoa is rich in magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, iron, thiamine and folate. And, quinoa is gluten-free.

Quinoa cooks quickly. It takes about 15 minutes to cook in boiling water or broth. Before you boil the quinoa, you’ll want to make sure to rinse it in a fine-mesh strainer under cool water to remove the bitter outer coating. You can also look for pre-washed varieties, which is what I do. Use two parts liquid to one part quinoa. Just 1 cup of dry ultimately yields 3 cups of cooked quinoa.

Quinoa can be added to almost anything due to its neutral taste. Next time you’re making a stir-fry, try using it instead of white rice. It takes less time to cook, provides a pleasantly nutty texture and bite, and can even be cooked in a rice cooker. It is mostly used in savory foods, but it can also be used in sweets, such as pudding or brownies.

If you’re tired of your traditional oatmeal breakfast and want to switch things up, quinoa makes a great hot breakfast cereal alternative. 1 Cup cooked 223kcal, 8.1g protein, 39g carbs, 3.6g fat

Looking for ideas for healthy snacks, try these:

• Breakfast cereals with fortified milk

• Cheese with fruit or crackers

• Hummus with pita chips

• Pudding made with fortified milk

• Greek yogurt made with 4% milk fat

• Nuts

• Cottage cheese with berries

• Smoothies

Fruit and vegetables should be included as part of a balanced diet, to ensure you get the full array of vitamins and minerals required. Fresh, frozen, dried varieties or fruit juice are all as good.

And lastly, sometimes the hardest thing to do is accept help from others with shopping, cooking and household chores. Realize that you need to get well and conserving energy is some times a much needed tool to allow your body to heal.

Susan Jordan is the public health educator for White County.