Information for carers

If you’re caring for someone with cancer, it can be challenging knowing how to deal with eating issues caused by the cancer and its treatment. It’s natural for a carer to worry about the diet of the person they’re caring for.

Topics on this page:


How to help with eating issues

  • Learn more about how cancer and its treatment affect eating. You will then be prepared for changes in appetite, taste and other side effects.
  • Read about different ways of coping with eating issues. See Treatment side effects and nutrition.
  • Try not to focus on how little the person is eating or drinking. Instead, gently encourage them to eat high-energy foods when they are feeling well.
  • Serve small amounts of food at a time, and freeze the leftovers.
  • Have ready-to-eat food for when they feel like eating. For example, tinned fruit in the cupboard, yoghurt in the fridge, frozen meals in the freezer.
  • Keep mealtimes flexible and be willing to try new ideas or recipes. See Recipes and snacks for suggestions.
  • Make meals as enjoyable as possible – eat together, play music, set the table with candles and flowers.
  • Follow safe food handling practices when preparing food.
  • Accept that during treatment the focus is on eating and not on eating nutritious food all of the time.
Read more about helping with eating issues

If your child has cancer

  • Work closely with your doctor and dietitian They will monitor your child’s weight and growth closely during treatment.
  • Be flexible – Let your child eat when they feel like it, not just at mealtimes. Be flexible in food choices – allow your child to have the same foods often or breakfast cereal for dinner if that’s what they prefer.
  • Encourage them to eat nutritious food – Try not to make an issue of your child’s reluctance to eat. Instead, encourage them to eat nutritious, high-energy foods when they are feeling well.
  • Offer occasional treats – Allow your child to eat fatty or sugary foods like cake, chips and chocolate occasionally. These foods are useful high-energy snacks if they are all your child wants to eat. During treatment, any nourishment is better than none. Have takeaway food occasionally, as it can tempt fussy eaters.
  • Make mealtimes fun – Focus on making mealtimes as relaxed as possible and an opportunity to come together to share stories and discuss any problems. Regular family meals also give a child a sense of stability.
  • Eat at the table – Discourage your child from eating in front of the television as it can be distracting.
Read more about nutrition for children

Looking after yourself

Caring for someone who is unwell can be exhausting and stressful. Try to look after yourself and share your worries and concerns with somebody neutral, such as a counsellor or your doctor. If you can, arrange some time off to rest or to participate in activities you enjoy. Accept offers of help from family, friends and neighbours, and ask for help if you need it.

Why eat well? is is a brief guide to what to eat and how much to exercise to maintain your health and wellbeing.

Many cancer support groups and cancer education programs are open to carers, as well as people with cancer. They offer valuable opportunities to share experiences and ways of coping. 

Support services such as Home Help, Meals on Wheels or visiting nurses can help you in your caring role. There are also many groups and organisations that can provide you with information and support, such as Carers Australia, the national body representing carers in Australia. Carers Australia works with Carers Associations in each of the states and territories. Phone 1800 242 636 or visit carersaustralia.com.au for more information and resources.

Read more about looking after yourself

This information was last reviewed in May 2016
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