High calorie drinks

You can boost your diet by having high calorie and protein drinks.

  • High calorie and protein drinks can be useful in the short term if your appetite is poor.
  • You can make your own energy filled drinks, they can contain milk or be diary free.
  • Ready made drinks are also available to buy or to get on prescription.
  • You have these between meals and carry on with your normal diet as well.

Making your own

You can make your own energy filled drinks. Blend milk, fresh fruit, yoghurt, honey or sugar and ice cream into a smoothie or milkshake. You can use dairy free alternatives such as silken tofu or smooth nut butters. It will improve the protein content of homemade drinks.

If you find the drinks too sweet, adding some natural yoghurt or cream cheese will help.


Use fresh apple, strawberries, banana or other soft fruit. Blend it with fortified milk, fruit juice or yoghurt in a liquidiser or with a blender.

Smoothies made with fruit juice will have much less protein. So they are less nutritious than those based on milk or yoghurt. Supermarkets sell mixed fruit and frozen smoothie mixes. These work well if you are making your own.

Add some oats or a handful of pumpkin or sesame seeds for a few extra calories. The best thing about making your smoothies is that they usually taste great. You can also control the flavour.


Make a nutritious milkshake by mixing fortified milk with puréed fruit or fruit yoghurt. Top with a scoop of ice cream for extra energy.

To make a chocolate and banana milkshake, use chocolate flavoured milk. Then whizz in a blender with a banana. This is delicious and nutritious and easier to manage if you can't face a meal.

Hot drinks

If you prefer hot drinks, try adding a couple of spoons of skimmed milk powder to hot milk. Then mix it with coffee, hot chocolate or a malted drink.

Ready made nourishing drinks

High calorie meals as a drink or energy drinks are also called liquid food supplements, sip feeds or build up drinks.

They can be useful short term if your appetite is poor and you can't manage to take in enough nourishment. Some ready made drinks have enough nutrients and calories to replace your meals. But it is always best to try and eat if you can and use the drinks between meals.

Ready made drinks can be juices, milky drinks or soups. They might come ready to use in cartons or bottles. Or as a powder that you mix with water or milk. Some also come as yogurts.

There are many different flavours such as chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and banana. If you don’t like the taste, there are ways to make supplements more palatable. This includes:

  • mix them with ice cream or fresh fruit to make a smoothie

  • freeze them into ice lollies

  • warm the chocolate or coffee flavours if you prefer hot drinks

  • stir unflavoured supplements into food like mashed potato or custard

Where to get them

Some high calorie drinks are available over the counter or in the supermarket. You can also buy them from your chemist or online. Your doctor, GP or dietitian can give you a prescription for the drinks.

Prescriptions are free if you live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England, if you have cancer, you can apply for free prescriptions.

Types of drink

There are several ready made commercial brands available on the market. These include:

  • Complan

  • Meritene

  • Ensure plus and Ensure plus juice

  • Fresubin

  • Fortisip and Fortijuice

  • Clinutren

  • Resource

  • Calshake

  • Provide xtra

Talking to your doctor

In most cases, you have nourishing drinks between meals and carry on with your normal diet as well. You will boost your nutritional intake if you drink between 2 and 3 cartons a day.

Do not take more than your doctor or dietitian recommends. The drinks contain vitamins that could be harmful in large amounts. Tell your doctor, dietitian or pharmacist if you are taking any vitamin supplements.

You may need to avoid taking certain medicines soon after or before having the drinks. The drink may change how much you absorb the medicine. Ask your pharmacist or dietitian about when to take your medicines and when to have the drinks.

Protein and energy supplements

These products are powders or liquids. They contain either energy, or protein with a small amount of energy. You can add them to many different foods and drinks. 

These supplements are not nutritionally balanced. So they are not suitable as a meal replacement. But they are helpful to boost either energy or protein levels. 

When taking these products, you should still eat and drink normally if possible. These products can be expensive, so your doctor should prescribe them if you need them.

Protein supplements

You should only take these if your doctor prescribes them for you. Examples include:

  • Protifar

  • ProSource and Prosource plant

  • ProCal shot or ProCal powder

Energy supplements

Examples of these supplements include:

  • Polycal

  • Maxijul

  • Calogen

  • Liquigen

  • Healthy eating for weight gain
    Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust
    Accessed October 2023

  • Eating well when you have cancer  
    The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
    Accessed October 2023

  • British National Formulary
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), August 2023

  • Nutrition support for adults: oral nutrition support, enteral tube feeding and parenteral nutrition
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), August 2017

Last reviewed: 
27 Mar 2024
Next review due: 
26 Mar 2027

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