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Food and Cancer: changes in your weight
Having treatment for cancer can affect your weight. It is possible to lose or gain weight for many different reasons, including the type of treatment you receive. It is also possible that the cancer itself can cause a change in your weight.
Weight changes may affect your health. If you are experiencing weight loss or unwanted weight gain, see your doctor or dietitian for information.
How to gain weight
If you can't manage to eat your usual amount of food or you're trying to gain or maintain weight, there are ways to take in more energy (kilojoules/calories) without having to eat more food.
You can increase your protein and energy intake by adding extras to your basic foods at mealtimes. While you are underweight or struggling to maintain your weight because of poor appetite, eating extra amounts of fat and sugar won't hurt you. It is only unhealthy when you eat more of such nutrients than your body requires.
- Try to have a small snack and/or nourishing drink every two hours if your appetite is poor or you can't manage big quantities.
- Make sure that what you eat and drink is nourishing, e.g. drink milk rather than cordial, eat biscuits rather than lollies.
- Use full-cream milk and dairy products. Use milk instead of water in porridge, soup and so on. Enrich milk with milk powder.
- Add milk powder to cereals, sauces, desserts, mashed vegetables, soup, drinks and egg dishes.
- Add cheese to sauces, soup, vegetables, baked beans, casseroles, salads and egg dishes.
- Add barley, peas, soup mix, beans and lentils to soup.
- Melt butter or margarine, or drizzle oil, onto vegetables, pasta or rice.
- Spread bread or toast thickly with butter or margarine.
- Put cream or ice-cream on puddings, pies and fruit, or add it to drinks.
- Add sour cream to meat, potatoes and other vegetables, or sauces.
- Fry meat, chicken, seafood and vegetables in oil, butter or margarine (if tolerated).
- Add mayonnaise to sandwiches and salads. Try oil-based salad dressings.
- Add sugar, golden syrup, honey or glucose powder to cereal, fruit and drinks.
- Treat food like medicine - something you have to have.
- Try using a timetable to plan frequent meals and snacks.
- Relax low-cholesterol and other dietary restrictions (for example, if you have diabetes). Eating eggs, full-cream milk, meat and cheese if you want them is an easy way to get extra nutrition if you are otherwise eating poorly.
- Limit your intake of fat and sugar when you return to your normal weight.
If you are overweight
If you are overweight, the best time to lose weight is after you have finished your treatment and recovered from side effects. If you are concerned about your weight, talk to your doctor or dietitian.