If you have been not eating, living on toast, or are under nourished there is a very good chance you are in desperate need of protein. If you have had muscle wastage, or are having headaches or just feel empty, it is likely that protein is what you are missing.
This is a chart which lists the protein content of foods.
While you are treating malnutrition you need to concentrate very hard on making sure you are taking in enough protein and I think your body will demand it. As soon as you feel able to start eating foods with a half decent protein content, or adding them to the foods that are getting your appetite back, do so, and then seek to make sure that you have a fairly constant stream of protein going in until this is finished and your symptoms have subsided. You are looking for foods that give you as much protein as you can possibly find.
When I was looking for advice on what to do, all the treatments I found for malnutrition were either looking at protein rich food in a constant stream, or a combination of protein and calorie rich food, in a stream, using protein bars and other things. This is probably not going to be an option open to you, but protein is cheap, easy to come by and you can pretty much ensure a stream of protein for a couple of days or so, with very little expense.
Nuts are by far the best value for money in your quest against malnutrition and nowhere more so than in the search for protein, they are the cheapest calories you can buy, nutrient dense and protein dense. Work your way through them, they are about the easiest way to create a consistent stream of protein, not salted or processed. salt is a very iffy thing for you right now, be careful. Almonds have the most stupid amount of protein you have ever seen and half a bag of almonds or brazil nuts can equal the calories of a plate of pasta. Not only that but you can literally FEEL them turning into energy a few minutes after you eat them. You can buy large bags of unprocessed nuts from Lidl for about £1.50 to £2, you can buy nuts in bulk by the kilo from everywhere from your local food-coop to Amazon, and baking suppliers are often a good source of bags of broken nuts for cheap. Nuts are a food it is worth buying in bulk when you get the opportunity, they get cheaper and are easy to store.
Nuts make your hair so shiny. You will feel like a shampoo advert even if you also feel like a hamster.
I have hated peanut butter my entire life, now I don’t. Its very good stuff. Cheap way to get a layer of protein on toast.
Tinned fish is amazing for protein- tinned tuna IS protein, even the tins which are half a tin of fish flakes in water. Tinned mackerel is really great, if you can bring yourself to(I happen to love the stuff) Supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi sell a wide variety of fish products, including trout and salmon fillets, herring, gravadlax and less fatty offerings than the usual farmed smoke salmon.
Pilchards on toast is one of the loveliest things ever to eat and pilchards can be had in tins with tomato sauce for next to nothing. Tuna mayonnaise. I hate tinned tuna, I hate mayonnaise, but together they are just about palatable and they are exactly what you need. By the spoonful. (Add pasta, all your bases covered. add sweetcorn= kerching.)
A fish butty from the fish and chip shops has turned into health food while you have malnutrition. My local chippy also sells his fish portions frozen for a quid.
Frozen fish, even in fingers(in fact, especially in fingers) is available and you can buy multipacks of frozen reshaped blocks of fish from major and budget supermarkets. These are very cheap and are proteinalicious, the watery flavour and crappy texture can be hidden by sauces. Lots of sauce.
You are about to learn that fish is good and make yourself eat it, mainly because it is going to be very difficult to meet your protein requirements without it. Good quality meat protein is much more expensive to obtain.
Whether it be multipacks of chicken breasts/pieces, thighs, or rotisserie chickens for a quid at the end of the day in the whoops section at the supermarket, chicken is protein. Eat chicken. Also turkey. It is good quality meat protein that is considerably cheaper than red meat. Processed chicken is NOT what you need here, it is high in salt has less protein and will not do what you need. The same goes for other processed meat products, high in salt and fat.
I wax lyrical about eggs here, but in addition to everything else, eggs are an amazing, cheap, source of good quality protein.
Tinned beans, whole grains, pulses, seeds.
Have protein in them. For some reason they stack up at the back of your cupboard, this is the time to get them used. Bean chilli is gorgeous, I am partial to baked beans, I am yet to be convinced of the edible nature of butterbeans and chickpeas, which seem largely to consist of dust. And also the protein is of a fairly shit quality considering how miserable they taste. Wholegrains, pulses, and seeds. The hippies were right about that stuff all along.
Red Meat and Fresh Fish
If you can afford red meat and fresh fish right now, that’s great and try to have at least one portion a week. It is really good quality protein and has all sorts of other benefits. Using independent shops comes into its own on a budget, you can buy only what you need and a portion size you can afford. Your nutrition does not depend on you having access to fresh meat and fish regularly, so don’t worry if you can’t. Treat yourself when you can.
Fresh fish is great because the quality of protein matters, you can buy a fresh mackerel fillet, which is actually two portions, for £2.50 from my fishmonger.
Soya can provide protein. It also stops you absorbing an awful lot of stuff including iron I think, and some vitamins.
Protein supplements for body builders, exercise freaks, are cheap, and easily available. They are actually useful, I currently use a protein supplement shake after I go running, but they are not high quality protein. You are treating malnutrition, you need as much of your treatment to come from food as is humanly possible, because the key part of this process is making your body respond normally to food again, and this is nowhere more true than with protein.
How much protein?
How much protein? I don’t know, but a tin of tuna made a noticeable difference to a pressure headache, while I was eating it. I tried to make sure about half of what I ate in the days where I still had symptoms was protein and I swear with each protein rich food I ate, I came back a bit and could feel it. You are supposed to make sure your every day diet is about 30% protein.