Adults at risk of poor nutrition due to shielding or self-isolation

Many of us will have noticed a difference in the way we shop, the food we can get hold of, and what we are eating as result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Older people and those with underlying health conditions who are shielding may have noticed the most significant changes. Social isolation can increase the risk of malnutrition and dehydration.

Access to food

If you or someone you know is shielding due to having a medical condition that makes you extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, and you have registered with the government, you will be able to access support for getting essential food supplies.

To discuss your needs, contact Cornwall Council on 0300 123 1118 or email

If you are shielding or self-isolating and having difficulty getting food shopping, call Volunteer Cornwall on 01872 266988 or email They can offer also help with collecting prescriptions and they have a telephone befriending service.

You may have family, friends or neighbours to support you or use online services. Some supermarkets are prioritising delivery for extremely vulnerable customers on the register and we recommend checking the supermarkets websites.

Many meal delivery services are continuing to take on new customers and deliver meals.

There may also be local businesses and shops offering delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check to see if your local area has a Facebook self-isolation group for this information.

Top tips for keeping well

Are you eating less than usual?

If you or someone you care for is eating less than usual, either due to a reduced appetite, being unwell or practical issues around obtaining food, you may be at risk of malnutrition.

Malnutrition makes it more difficult for the body to fight illness and infection and can make us feel weak, tired and low in mood. To treat malnutrition we need to increase the energy (calories), protein and other nutrients that we eat and drink.

Where possible, it is recommended that all those who are at risk of malnutrition try to optimise their nutritional intake by having regular snacks and nourishing drinks, and fortifying their food. The following leaflets give some more detail and practical advice on how to do this:

  • making the most of your food: how to increase the energy (calories), protein and other nutrients in your diet (PDF, 1.23 MB)
  • managing malnutrition: simple recipes and a 1,2,3 approach to increasing your intake of energy, protein and other nutrients (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Nourishing drinks can be useful for people who are eating small amounts. It’s important to drink enough fluid (8 to 10 cups or glasses a day) and having fluid with additional nutrition such as milky drinks, milkshakes, soups, fruit juice, smoothies, hot chocolate and malted milk drinks can also help increase nutritional intake.

Our homemade fortified drinks leaflet (PDF, 558 KB) has a few recipes for drinks and desserts to help increase your energy, protein intake.

A range of fortified drinks can be bought from supermarkets and pharmacies (such as Complan, Meritene and Aymes Retail). View the full range of fortified drinks available (PDF, 67 KB).


You can check your malnutrition risk at home using self-screening tools. They can be a useful starting point but please ensure you seek advice from a healthcare professional if you are identified as at risk of malnutrition:

If you or someone you care for is concerned about your nutrition, if you have been eating less, been unwell or have noticed unintentional weight loss, please contact your GP or healthcare professional for further advice.


As well as good nutrition it’s important to ensure you drink enough fluid to stay hydrated.

Dehydration can increase the risk of falls, infections such as urinary tract infections, constipation and cause confusion and tiredness.

Aim to drink 8 to 10 cups or glasses of fluid every day (1,600 ml to 2,000 ml). This may need be increased in hot weather, if you are exercising more, and if you are unwell with a high temperature.

Water, milk, juices, squash, tea and coffee all count. If you’re struggling to eat enough consider nourishing drinks such as milky drinks, milkshakes, soups, fruit juice, smoothies, hot chocolate and malted milk drinks.

The BDA fluid and food information sheet (PDF, 586 KB) is full of facts about why you should stay hydrated.