People with cancer commonly lose weight because cancer cells can burn a lot of energy, and treatment side effects can cause a loss of appetite. Losing weight without trying may be a sign of malnutrition. However, weight loss can often be prevented with the support of your cancer care team, and maintaining your weight will help you stay strong and recover faster.
To help avoid weight loss during and straight after cancer treatment, eat more protein, fat and carbohydrates. This approach is usually temporary − you can return to the usual guidelines for healthy eating once you have recovered.
Learn more about:
- Treat food like medicine: something you have to have in order to feel better.
- Set times for meals and snacks rather than waiting until you’re hungry.
- Carry snacks such as hard-boiled eggs, muesli bars, dried fruit and nuts, crackers and fruit buns.
- Try ready-to-use nutritional supplement drinks when you are travelling or on other occasions when it is difficult to prepare a meal. Examples include Sustagen, Ensure and Resource.
- Choose nourishing fluids and snacks that are higher in protein and energy (kilojoules) − for example, drink milk rather than water and choose cheese and biscuits over lollies. Get more information on food-type nutritional supplements.
- Include high-energy and high-protein foods in every meal or snack.
Add these ingredients…
…to these meals and snacks
|full-cream cow’s milk, cream, coconut milk or soy milk (liquid or powdered versions)||porridge, sauces, desserts, mashed vegetables, egg dishes, cream soups, scrambled eggs, congee, milkshakes, flavoured milk drinks (e.g. Milo, Akta-Vite)|
|yoghurt or sour cream||dips, salad dressings, fruit, potatoes, soups, rice dishes, lentil dhal|
|butter, margarine or olive oil||bread, toast, mashed potato, cooked vegetables, rice and pasta dishes|
|cheese (e.g. cheddar, cream cheese, fetta, haloumi)||scrambled eggs, sauces, soups, vegetables, casseroles, salads, toast, sandwich fillings, pasta sauce, crackers, tacos|
|mayonnaise (commercial)||egg or chicken sandwiches, potato salad, coleslaw, salad dressing, fish|
|peanut butter or other nut butters||bread, toast, porridge, crackers, pancakes, scones, fruit, smoothies|
|avocado||toast, sandwich fillings, dips, salads, crackers, smoothies|
|nuts and seeds||porridge, muesli, yoghurt, salads, baked goods, stir-fries, desserts|
|beans or legumes||rice dishes, toast toppings, salads, pasta dishes, soups|
|egg or tofu||toast, sandwich fillings, stir-fries, mashed potato, soups, pasta sauce, salads|
Jenelle Loeliger, Head of Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rebecca Blower, Public Health Advisor, Cancer Prevention, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Julia Davenport, Consumer; Irene Deftereos, Senior Dietitian, Western Health, VIC; Lynda Menzies, A/Senior Dietitian – Cancer Care (APD), Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Janice Savage, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.