The High Energy High Protein Diet

A high energy high protein diet is a great choice for anyone that has lost weight, needs to gain weight, or simply needs an extra nutrition boost to help their body through a health condition. The diet can be essential to restoring someones health through ensuring they have increased calories and protein to restore what they have lost.

Here you can find the high energy high protein diet laid out perfectly to make it easy to build this into a daily diet plan.

plate of a variety of raw meats with a black background and wood pieces.

What is a High Energy High Protein Diet (HEHP)?

A high energy high protein (HEHP) diet consists of adding calories and protein to each food item eaten for multiple health reasons. The diet adds in protein and extra calories to various recipes, meals, and snacks to get the most bang for your buck with each bite.

Why Would Someone Need a HEHP Diet?

This diet can be prescribed to someone for multiple reasons, some include:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Pressure injuries
  • Post surgery wound healing
  • Inadequate food and fluid intake
  • Hypermetabolism or Increased nutrient needs
  • Underweight
  • Going through active treatment for a health condition (Cancer treatments)

Typically a HEHP diet is recommended on a temporary time line in order to help someone maintain their body weight, improve their nutritional status, and aid their body in restoring their health to optimal status.

The Role of Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient to our body that helps to maintain muscle, bone, and other lean tissues and functions. It can aid in skin repair, improve muscle strength and reduce falls risk. Older adults should aim for at minimum 1.0 – 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. For a 60 kilogram (132 pounds) female, this would amount to 60-72 grams of protein per day.

Tips to Help with Poor Appetite?

Lack of appetite can lead to weight loss, malnutrition and in some cases put someone at a higher risk of early mortality. Targeting the cause of poor appetite is the first step in treating it. But there are some general tips that help the majority of people to improve their appetites.

If you want more information on finding the root cause of lack of appetite, read 9 Tricks to Stimulate Appetite in the Elderly.

Eat When You Feel Hungry

Taking advantage of the times when hunger is at its peak is very important. The feeling of hunger will come and go, especially in those that are already having a lack of appetite. Ensuring that when someone is hungry they eat is an essential part of the HEHP diet.

Eat Small Meals

Large meals can feel overwhelming for someone struggling to eat. Offering small meals and snacks every 1-3 hours can help an individual needing the HEHP diet. They can have additional calories and protein at all meals and snacks which will help them meet their nutrition goals.

Liquids Can Be Meals

Often we discourage people from drinking their calories, but when someone has trouble eating large amounts of food, drinks are a great alternative. Some of these drinks include:

  • Oral nutritional supplements (Ensure, Boost)
  • Homemade smoothies (Find some great recipes here)
  • Milkshakes
  • Protein drinks

All of these can help someone increase the calories and protein they need daily to support their health journey. If you want to see a Registered Dietitian’s supplement drink recommendations, this article is very helpful: Supplement Drinks for Elderly: A Dietitian’s Recommendations (2023).

Strawberry milkshake in a glass with strawberries beside it.

Choose Favourites

Accommodating preferences and letting someone have their favourite foods is a key part of the diet when someone needs a HEHP diet. They are likely struggling to eat anything in general if they have any of the above conditions, so encouraging them by providing foods they love will help!

If chicken parmesan is their favourite type of food, try to have this on the menu multiple times a week, as it is high in protein, calories and fat.

Examples of High Protein Foods

The high protein foods that someone selects will vary by their diet type, but in most cases I encourage people to have animal proteins as a major source. Animal proteins have the highest bioavailability (meaning we absorb the nutrients easily) compared to non-animal proteins. Animal proteins also provides us with all the essential amino acids that we need to build muscle.

Here are some great proteins that you can add:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Eggs
  • Pork
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Canned tuna
  • Cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Milk
  • Soy products
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts (any and all kinds)
  • Protein powder (Premier Protein is great!)
  • Oral nutritional supplements high in protein

Examples of High Energy Foods

High energy foods are foods that are calorie dense in small portions, or that can help you increase the amount of calories in recipes and foods. Here are some great examples of these food items:

  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • High fat yogurt
  • High fat milk
  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Trail mix
  • Oils (olive, canola)
  • Peanut butter
  • Nutella
  • Cottage cheese
  • Whipped cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Jams, Syrup
  • Honey
  • Gravy

Breakfast Ideas

Breakfast can be a great time to get the most calories and protein for someone because they have likely been fasting all night. Waking up and taking advantage of being hungry is optimal for someone who needs the HEHP diet. Try to prioritize calories and protein the most at breakfast.

Here are some breakfast ideas:

  1. Greek Yogurt Parfait:
    • Greek yogurt: High in protein.
    • Mixed berries: Provide antioxidants and flavor.
    • Granola: Adds crunch and extra calories.
    • Honey: Drizzle for sweetness and extra energy.
  2. Veggie Omelette:
    • Eggs: Packed with protein.
    • Spinach, bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes: Loaded with vitamins and minerals.
    • Cheese: Adds both protein and calories.
    • Avocado: Offers healthy fats and additional calories.
  3. Protein Smoothie Bowl:
    • Protein powder (whey, soy, or plant-based): Boosts protein content.
    • Banana: Provides natural sweetness and energy.
    • Almond butter or peanut butter: Adds healthy fats and calories.
    • Toppings like nuts, seeds, and shredded coconut: Increase calorie density.
  4. Smoked Salmon Bagel:
    • Smoked salmon: Rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
    • Cream cheese: Adds creaminess and calories.
    • Whole-grain bagel: Offers complex carbohydrates for sustained energy.
    • Sliced red onion and capers: Enhance flavor.
  5. Breakfast Burrito:
    • Scrambled eggs or tofu scramble (for a vegan option): High in protein.
    • Black beans: Provide additional protein and fiber.
    • Avocado slices: Add creaminess and healthy fats.
    • Salsa and cheese: Enhance flavor and calories.
    • Whole-grain tortilla: Wraps it all together and adds carbs.

Lunch Ideas

  1. Chicken Quesadillas:
    • Grilled or shredded chicken breast: Mixed with sautéed onions and bell peppers.
    • Flour tortillas: Layered with the chicken mixture and shredded cheese.
    • Served with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole on the side.
  2. Beef Stir-Fry:
    • Thinly sliced beef (e.g., sirloin or flank steak): Stir-fried with broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers in a savory sauce.
    • Served over steamed white or brown rice.
  3. Classic BLT Sandwich:
    • Bacon strips: Crispy and delicious.
    • Lettuce and sliced tomatoes: Fresh and crisp.
    • Mayonnaise: Spread on toasted white or whole wheat bread.
  4. Chicken Parmesan Sandwich:
    • Breaded and fried chicken cutlet: Placed on a sub roll.
    • Marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese: Added on top of the chicken.
    • Served with a side of pasta or garlic bread.
  5. Tuna Melt:
    • Canned tuna salad (tuna, mayonnaise, celery, and onions): Spread on slices of bread.
    • Sliced cheddar cheese: Melted on top of the tuna salad.
    • Grilled until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Supper Ideas

  1. Grilled Steak with Garlic Butter:
    • Grilled steak (ribeye, sirloin, or filet mignon): Seasoned and cooked to your liking.
    • Garlic butter sauce: Made with melted butter and minced garlic.
    • Served with loaded baked potatoes (topped with sour cream, chives, and cheese) and a side of steamed asparagus.
  2. Classic Spaghetti Carbonara:
    • Spaghetti pasta: Cooked until al dente.
    • Pancetta or bacon: Crispy and flavorful.
    • Egg yolks, grated Parmesan cheese, and black pepper: Create a creamy sauce.
    • Garnish with chopped parsley and extra Parmesan.
  3. Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken:
    • Whole roasted chicken: Seasoned with a mixture of lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs.
    • Roasted root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, and onions): Drizzled with olive oil.
    • Gravy made from chicken drippings.
  4. BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches:
    • Slow-cooked pulled pork: Seasoned with barbecue sauce.
    • Served on brioche or hamburger buns.
    • Coleslaw on the side: A classic pairing.
  5. Pan-Seared Salmon with Dill Cream Sauce:
    • Salmon fillets: Pan-seared until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
    • Creamy dill sauce: Made with heavy cream, fresh dill, and lemon juice.
    • Served with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed green beans.

Snack Ideas

  1. Trail Mix:
    • Ingredients: Mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, and walnuts), dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, or apricots), and dark chocolate chunks.
    • Trail mix is a calorie-dense snack that combines healthy fats from nuts, protein, and a touch of sweetness from the dried fruit and chocolate.
  2. Greek Yogurt with Honey and Berries:
    • Ingredients: Greek yogurt (high in protein), drizzled with honey, and topped with fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries).
    • Greek yogurt provides a protein-packed base while the honey and berries add natural sweetness and antioxidants.
  3. Hummus and Whole Wheat Pita Bread:
    • Ingredients: Hummus (chickpea dip) with whole wheat pita bread for dipping.
    • Hummus is a good source of both protein and healthy fats, and the whole wheat pita bread provides complex carbohydrates.
  4. Protein Smoothie:
    • Ingredients: Whey protein powder, milk (or a dairy-free alternative), banana, and a tablespoon of almond butter.
    • Blend all the ingredients together to create a high-protein, high-calorie smoothie.

Dietitian Tips

It can seem daunting to be recommended a high energy high protein diet, but once you simply focus on high calorie and high protein foods, it can be a lot easier. Here are my final top 5 tips for making this diet yours:

  1. Prioritize Protein and Calories First:
    • Focus on animal proteins (chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef), whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, oats), legumes (beans, lentils), and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
    • Animal proteins are nutrient-dense, providing not only protein and calories but also essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids for overall health.
  2. Include Extra Calories:
    • Add extra high calorie items to your baked goods, meat dishes, and milkshakes to increase the amount in each food item.
  3. Balanced Meals and Snacks:
    • Create balanced meals and snacks by incorporating a mix of macronutrients. Aim for a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats in each meal.
    • This balance helps stabilize blood sugar levels, sustain energy, and provide long-lasting fuel for your body.
  4. Frequent Meals and Snacks:
    • Eat at regular intervals throughout the day, including snacks between meals if needed. This can help you consume enough calories and protein to support your energy needs.
    • Consider adding high-protein snacks like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or a handful of nuts to boost daily protein intake.
  5. Hydration Matters:
    • Stay well-hydrated. Dehydration can affect appetite levels and increase feelings of nausea. Ensuring 8-10 cups of fluids per day can help improve appetite.
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Michelle Saari is a Registered Dietitian based in Canada. She has a Master's Degree in Human Nutritional Sciences and is a passionate advocate for spreading easy to understand, reliable, and trustworthy nutrition information. She is currently a full time online entrepreneur with two nutrition focused websites.

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