Preventing Weight Loss in ALS Patients
By Julie Glass, R.D.
Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) can occur as a bulbar complication
of ALS. Such dysphagia can lead to a drop in weight due to loss of
body fat and muscle. This is often a result of a decreased food intake
along with lack of interest in eating due to fatigue at mealtime.
To make up for lost calories and protein, it is important for individuals
with ALS experiencing weight loss to increase the calorie and protein content
of their meals. If weight loss is a problem for you or your loved
one, try a few of these calorie-boosting hints:
Add butter or margarine to hot foods such as soups, vegetables, mashed
potatoes, cooked cereal, pasta, and rice. A teaspoon will add 45
calories. Serve bread hot – more butter is used when it melts into
Increase calories in food by using gravies, cream, cheese sauces,
salad dressing, or mayonnaise on meats, vegetables, and starches.
Try light or heavy cream in place of milk when baking, making soups,
or making desserts such as pudding or custard.
Use milk in place of water in hot cereals and instant beverages,
such as hot chocolate. Increase the protein content by adding 2-4
tablespoons of powdered milk per 1 cup of milk.
Whipped cream is about 60 calories per tablespoon. Add it generously
to pies, fruit, puddings, hot chocolate, jello, and other desserts.
Powdered coffee creamers add calories without volumes – add them
to gravy, soup, milk shakes, and hot cereals.
Add extra calories to food by using sugar, jelly, jam, honey, molasses,
or maple syrup.
Drink fluids with calories and nutrients, such as juice and milk.
Water, black tea, and black coffee have no calories; regular soda
is high in calories but is lacking in any nutrients.
Carry convenient foods with you, such as canned supplements (e.g.,
Carnation Instant Breakfast®, Ensure®, Boost®, Resource®),
yogurt, pudding, applesauce, instant soup or cocoa packets so you never
miss a meal.
Eat frequent high-calorie snacks during the day.
Help stimulate the appetite by preparing the meals and setting the
table in the most visually appealing manner as possible. Use garnish
to accent the foods.
The ALS Team welcomes Julie Glass, R.D., as nutritional consultant and
dietitian. Julie recently joined the Neuromuscular & ALS Center
and replaced Patti Nevins, who has moved on to a new position.
Remember to season the food as you would any other meal.