Weight loss

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:

How to manage weight loss

  • 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.

Ways to add energy and protein

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


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

Listen to our podcast on Appetite Loss and Nausea

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Nutrition and Cancer.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in June 2019
View who reviewed this content
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