Managing Appetite Loss

One of the biggest nutrition challenges you may face during treatment is loss of appetite. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t feel like eating. This side effect is common; however, when you can’t eat or don’t want to eat, you may be at risk for losing weight. Because a healthy diet can help you gain strength, it helps to know what to do — and what not to do.

In general, try to consume a wide variety of healthy foods and drink plenty of liquids Choose high-protein foods, and supplement your diet with high-calorie shakes. Because some treatments can cause a loss of bone mass, it’s helpful to eat dairy products and other foods high in calcium. Following are some options to help get the most nutrition out of every bite.

  • Eat high-calorie foods: casseroles, stews, macaroni and cheese, hearty and creamy soups, eggs, pancakes, waffles, French toast, mashed potatoes, pasta dishes, puddings and ice cream.
  • Drink high-calorie beverages: juices, milk, cocoa, malted milk, shakes, smoothies, breakfast drinks and nutritional supplement beverages. Avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Keep high-calorie snacks readily available at home and when you go out: peanut butter, cheese, ice cream, puddings, nuts, trail mix, breakfast bars, cereal, yogurt, cottage cheese and hard-boiled eggs.
  • Eat five to six small meals throughout the day rather than three large meals.
  • Schedule your “main” meal of the day for when your appetite is best and you are able to eat the most.
  • Plan meals that include your favorite foods and vary your meals to enhance appetite.
  • Increase seasonings and vary the aromas and textures of foods.
  • Create a pleasant setting for mealtimes and make them relaxed and unhurried.
  • Have meals with family and friends, and go to a restaurant for a change of pace.
  • Eat high-calorie, nutritious foods first at mealtimes, starting with the protein (meat, chicken and fish), followed by starches (potatoes, pasta) and ending with vegetables.
  • Limit fluid intake during meals to prevent beverages from making you feel full.
  • Talk with your health care team before taking vitamins or supplements as doctors prefer you get all, or most, of your nutrients from food.