Trying to increase my appetite
February 18, 2005 8:16 PM   Subscribe

I’m looking for ways to increase my appetite. I’ve always had a fast metabolism, and now that I run 30+ miles a week, I know I’m not consistently getting the calories I need. Developing an appetite would certainly help me get the necessary intake. In addition to appetite boosters, I’d also be interested in (vegetarian) foods that are particularly calorie / nutrient rich so I can get more out of each meal. Protein shakes help, but I wouldn't mind actually wanting food more often.
posted by yorick to Health & Fitness (26 answers total)
Wow, I wish I had your problem.
posted by delmoi at 9:11 PM on February 18, 2005

It's not so much the food, it's the preparation. I love the Moosewood cookbooks and there's tons of sauteeing in olive oil their casserole recipes: I'm thinking specifically of the Mushroom Moussaka, which I've been unable to locate online but would happily e-mail you if you like. It has a Bechamel sauce that tops it (flour, butter, and cream or milk, so it's not vegan) and it's very rich tasting, and thankfully freezes well.

Avocados and nuts have lots of good fats, so eat a lot of them. Supplementing with flax seed oil and multivitamins should help, as well. If you don't have a milk aversion, adding cheeses to your diet will surely help. Cheese and bread and wine. Good god, I need to start running.
posted by melissa may at 9:24 PM on February 18, 2005

Do you cook with tofu often?
posted by quam at 9:31 PM on February 18, 2005

Tempeh is excellent, fried in sesame or peanut oil, and drenched in salsa. This will give you plenty of calories, protein and nutrients.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:33 PM on February 18, 2005

Smoke weed.
posted by Fat Guy at 9:37 PM on February 18, 2005

Tempeh is also good marinated in soy sauce and stir fried.

And not-so-good marinated in beer and substituted for meat in a chili recpe.

Tempeh is way better for you than tofu, because it is made from whole grains.

My wife, who is Indian, makes paratas, which are whole wheat flatbreads stuffed with vegetables or lentils. Or stuffed with curry (which is my favorite, but which in India is considered housewives' food -- men often won't eat them). I am absolutely addicted to them...happily, as I think that they are healthy, and have pretty much infinite variety. They are certainly not as fattening, as heavy, or as spicy as curry.
posted by goethean at 9:58 PM on February 18, 2005

Fat Guy beat me to it.

Though I'm amazed that running so much doesn't do the trick for you.

Perhaps your problem is esthetic. If you think in terms of protein shakes it's no wonder you don't relish eating :)

I'd suggest getting into cooking more if you want to really awaken your interest in food. Buy a Laurel's Kitchen and a Vegetarian Epicure and a Sundays at Moosewood (all classic cookbooks) and experience the whole joy-of-hippie-cuisine revelation. Nothing will stimulate your interest in food like a quantum leap in the quality of the food available to you.

Tofu is universally well-known. Tempeh is gaining recognition. But don't miss out on Seitan, and other unnamed wheat-gluten meat substitutes. I shouldn't say "meat substitutes," really. It's a mistake to think of them as "like meat." You'll not only be disappointed when they aren't (quite), you'll miss out on their best qualities by expecting something else.

I had the most delicious deep-friied gluten-based "ginger-chicken" chunks the other day. Mmmm. The best thing about non-meat meat? No gristle~!
posted by scarabic at 10:27 PM on February 18, 2005

Tempeh is way better for you than tofu, because it is made from whole grains.

And tofu isn't made from a grain at all. What's your point?
posted by rxrfrx at 10:27 PM on February 18, 2005

Eat more carbs. Sweets also tend to stimulate one's appetite.
posted by gyc at 11:07 PM on February 18, 2005

I'm the same way, yorick. I have never had an appetite and I do not feel hunger if I don't eat; I just sleep more. I enjoy food once I start to eat, but it's getting started that's difficult. Something that helps me: if I buy, say, a container of fruit salad, I will take it out of the fridge and open it and set it next to me at a pre-determined time. Having it open and starting to spoil puts an impetus on eating it -- otherwise I'll just forget I have it. I second what Melissa May said about nuts -- they also have convenience going for them, so there's less reason to put off eating them. Also (and this is an option I wish I had..): If you have a slow cooker, you can start something in the morning and have it ready by the time you come home, and the wonderful smell may help stimulate some appetite.

And delmoi, I'm sure you're joking, but having no appetite tends to suck a little joy out of life.
posted by Marit at 11:57 PM on February 18, 2005

You bastard.

Now that I have that off my chest, one easy way to add taste and energy is of course oil. Get some classic Tuscan or Sicilian or Provencale cookbooks - all cuisines with many interesting vegetable and high-carb dishes, where a heavy hand with the olive oil can only improve matters. If you don't eat meat, you can afford better quality oil.

I have never, ever had much luck with vegetarian cookbooks, which too often seem to be written by people who don't actually really like food that much. (The Moosewood on Sundays book is an honourable exception, but Molly Katzen herself left me cold).

I would go looking for classical recipes with minor or no meat component and adapt them. I am not a vegetarian myself, but I have continously cohabited with and cooked for vegetarians for 15 years, and I've had no complaints with this approach, other than those that follow when they get on the scales.

Browned things are tasty things. Toasted nuts, crispy onion, seared mushroom.

Grow fresh herbs and use them with abandon.

Stinky cheese: parmesan, pecorino, mature cheddar. Use them more. Energy dense and they make your mouth water.

Buy nice beer, and drink a small bottle every night. One drink a day is good for you, and beer's high in calories, and will stimulate the appetite. Likewise a glass of wine.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:24 AM on February 19, 2005

Protein shakes? Soy milk, banana, strawberries in the blender. You need to stay hydrated, particularly when you are running so the additional fluids won't hurt.
posted by fixedgear at 2:36 AM on February 19, 2005

Sorry, should have read the last sentence in your post.
posted by fixedgear at 4:02 AM on February 19, 2005

Thanks for the suggestions so far, especially Marit.

I know my situation isn't the most pleasant thing to hear if someone is trying to eat less / lose weight. One of the common responses to my situation is "Just start eating", which seems similarly insensitive and "easier-said-than-done "as "just eat less" responses given to people trying to lose weight. Now that I'm experiencing my own mind vs. food conflict, I'm far more sympathetic to people trying to tame their appetites. For the record, I have no interest in trivializing those efforts.

The drawbacks of low appetite may be fewer than overeating, but they're still worth addressing. Most common is that I'll unknowingly burn through my available energy and become disoriented and anxious. Hydration is a problem, too, as water is poorly absorbed on an empty stomach. I need to eat a ton for water to not simply pass through me. My end of the spectrum isn't exactly fun either, but I'm well aware there's less stigma assigned to it.
posted by yorick at 8:02 AM on February 19, 2005

Darn it, I'm always late to the AskMe questions I can actually answer.
Ritualizing meals can help with both ends of the healthy eating spectrum (too much and too little). Try to eat with other people. Try to eat out more often if you can afford it. Cook for other people and have them cook for you -- a house that smells like good food will make you hungry. Just make sure you carve out time in your day to focus on food, no matter how busy you are.
Some more specific suggestions:
- The color red improves appetite. Set a table with a red tablecloth and candles, even if you're just sitting down alone for a quick dinner.
- Try not to do anything else while you're eating -- don't read, don't watch TV. Just focus on the flavor and texture of your food.
- Bake bread. If you're not a baker and if you can afford it, buy a bread machine and set it so the bread is ready when you get home. The smell of bread will get you hungry and in the mood for a meal.
- If you drink coffee or tea, try cutting back a bit. You'll be hungrier.
Like everyone else has said, appetizing = appetite. Seek out tasty food. Learn about food. Read some MFK Fisher or Jeffrey Steingarten essays. Think about how lucky we are that the stuff we need to stay alive can be so pleasurable.
Or, failing all that, just think about the starving children in Tasmania.
posted by climalene at 8:57 AM on February 19, 2005

FYI–Most cheeses are not vegetarian.

Have you tried eating lots of pasta/potatoes/rice/bread?
posted by spaghetti at 8:58 AM on February 19, 2005

I second smoking weed.

For protein there's an Andean grain called quinoa, which you can get at most health food/co-op, which is the most protein-rich grain on the planet. You can make all sorts of stuff with it and it's super good for you. I might also recommend asparagus because that stuff has more vitamins than you can shake a stick at.

spaghetti- I've been a vegetarian for over two years now and I eat cheese all the time. Cheese is vegetarian safe, but not vegan safe. Also, you suggestion isn't necessarily a great idea- lots of people who go veg/vegan end up going crazy on the foods you mentioned, which (aside from the rice) are very carb-heavy and can lead to weight gain if you're not a very active person. Now naturally I eat those foods with a reasonable frequency, but I always make sure to balance my diet so that I don't over-carb.
posted by baphomet at 9:43 AM on February 19, 2005

Three basics of improving appetite: Sight, Smell, Selection.

Sight: You have been given some help already. Red is an appetite booster. Also just the sight of food may program your brain to increase your desire. Watching cooking shows, reading cookbooks, surrounding yourself with other people who eat are all ways to boost appetite.

Smell: Bake, cook, fill the air with odors pleasant to you. The smell of baking bread, simmering soup, roasting vegetables may all increase the appetite.

Selection: Studies have shown that greater selection leads to an increase in intake. So when you sit down to eat, sit down to a larger variety. Salads with croutons, nuts cheeses, and oils. Breads with different spreads. Cream soups. Pastas with rich sauces. Olives. Crackers. Stuffed mushrooms. A little of this and a little of that adds up.

SLoG'S Stuffed Mushrooms
Pie pastry
1 lb of large mushrooms
4 oz blue cheese
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 C diced walnuts

Pastry shells (optional):
Fill a muffin pan with foil cupcake holders. Using homemade or store bought pastry, cut into circles with water glass or biscuit cutter and mold into cupcake holders. Bake per pastry recipe.
Mushrooms: Clean mushrooms and remove stem. Mash together the two cheeses and stuff the mushrooms. Sprinkle with nuts. Heat under broiler until browned.
Finish: Place a 1/2 tsp or so of the reserved cheese mix into the warm pastry then insert broiled mushroom.

Note: I'm pulling these amounts out of my hat because this is something I've never written down. I just guess as I go, so if you need more filling or more nuts, just add more. The pastry cups are optional-- I add them for special events since it is more work, but boy it makes this recipe stand out. People gobble these down.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:47 AM on February 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

MD POV - stop any stimulants you may be taking. Most are appetite suppressants. Examples include anything with caffeine or ephedra in them or medicines such as Ritalin for ADHD. The most important thing for your life, of course, would be to stop smoking if you currently smoke. There aren't any really good pharmaceutical appetite stimulants. Marijuana works wonderfully, but it makes you lazy. Doesn't sound like your goal. Anabolic steroids work well but have serious side effects and issues of legality.

Good luck
posted by zwemer at 9:47 AM on February 19, 2005

Carbs, carbs, carbs, until you can't stand anymore, and then eat some more.
posted by kindall at 9:54 AM on February 19, 2005

Spaghetti's right, Baphomet -- lots of cheese contains rennet, which usually comes from somewhere non-vegetarian which I will not describe given that this is a thread about increasing appetite.
posted by climalene at 10:39 AM on February 19, 2005

Cheese is vegetarian safe, but not vegan safe.

some cheeses are, but most regular cheese in the US contains rennet. In the UK, they label this much more clearly - it's widely known whether the cheese has animal product in it or not. In the US I only know one brand that consistently labels that their cheese is vegetarian (fortunately it's a fairly common brand, although I can't think of the name right now).
posted by mdn at 10:47 AM on February 19, 2005

On preview - what climalene just said. You have to check your cheeses to make sure they are made with enzymes instead. Here's some good info about it, and it has links to a list of vegetarian cheeses.

Oils, nuts (peanut butter), legumes, rice, and avocados. Lots of dairy - full-fat yogurt, full-fat milk and cream, cheeses, cream sauces, creamy soups. Use eggs if you're ovo-lacto, make omelettes. Egg noodles. Tofu, tempeh, soy products. These are good ways to increase protein and calories in your diet. Lots of fruits - you need the fiber too.

Try to make foods that smell good - think about what smells you find appetizing. So much of taste is really smell, and the right smells will get your appetite going - baking cookies, grilling veggies, broiling mushrooms, etc.. Also try to make sure you're not suppressing your appetite with caffeine.
posted by Melinika at 10:58 AM on February 19, 2005

Cabot's of Vermont may be what you're thinking of, mdn. Mmmm, Cabot's white cheddar. I now am hungry for a grilled cheese sandwich with homemade bread, white cheddar, avocados, walnuts, and tomatoes. And I am going to make SLoG's mushrooms very soon. So for those of us already blessed with appetite, this thread has been successful in improving it further Hope it helps yorick.
posted by climalene at 11:06 AM on February 19, 2005

Another thing you might try is adding some weight training to your exercise regimen. I haven't worked out in a while, but I know that after a workout I was usually ready to eat anything.

I'm not saying you should get huge. And maybe you're already lifting. If not, just a core set of the basics,: squats, deadlifts, bench and pulldown/pullup should work. And the squats/deadlifts will probably help your running time.
posted by formless at 5:11 PM on February 19, 2005

A friend of mine was the team physician for a college running team. One of her long-distance runners was this kid who she just could not keep weight on -- she figured out that his metabolic rate was something ridiculous like 10,000 calories a day. She solved the problem by having him carry bags of trail mix everywhere -- worked like a charm. It's easy to munch on, and it's surprisingly high in calories.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:55 PM on February 19, 2005

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