Sometimes cancer or cancer treatment can affect your appetite.
Though you might not feel like eating, it's important to do what you can to maintain your calorie, protein and fluid intake during cancer treatment. Use this information to help plan meals and snacks that will be more appealing and provide the nutrition you need to get better.
Keep in mind that in some cases, such as advanced cancer, eating may not affect the outcome of your illness or treatment. In these situations, trying to follow specific dietary guidelines, such as adhering to a low-sodium or low-fat diet, may not be practical.
Sometimes caregivers or family members can unintentionally add stress by pushing or trying to force you to eat certain foods. Ask your doctor how carefully you need to follow specific dietary guidelines.
Keep snacks handy. Have snacks readily available so that you can eat when you're up to it.
Cheese, ice cream, canned fruit in heavy syrup, dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter with crackers, cheese with crackers, muffins, cottage cheese and chocolate milk are examples of high-calorie snacks requiring little or no preparation.
Don't be too concerned that some of these options are high in cholesterol or fat. Once you regain your appetite, you can focus on lower calorie snacking options.
During illness, treatment or recovery, your need for calories and protein may be greater than usual. The following suggestions can help increase the number of calories you consume:
Though some of these suggestions add more fat and sugar to your diet, this shouldn't be a concern since you're only adding the extra calories until you can get your appetite back on track. Check with your doctor or a dietitian if you have concerns about changing the way you eat.
Protein is important for growth, health and repair of your body. If you've been ill, you may need extra protein. Some suggestions include:
If illness has made red meat — beef, pork or lamb — less appealing to you, try the following foods, which also are good sources of protein:
Drinking plenty of fluids also is key to helping your body during treatment. Try to drink at least 64 ounces (2 liters) of fluid a day, unless your doctor has directed you to limit your fluid intake.
Try to choose drinks that contain calories. If sweetened beverages are too sweet, try flavored water or fruit juices diluted with water.
If your loss of appetite is keeping you from eating well for more than a few days, you might consider asking your doctor about taking a multivitamin. Cancer treatments and other medications can interact with nutritional supplements, so discuss it with your doctor first.
Check the label and look for a multivitamin that doesn't give you more than 100% of the Daily Value of all the vitamins and minerals.
Keep in mind, though, that if you're eating or drinking nutritional supplements, such as bars, cookies, smoothies and other products that are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals, you may not need a multivitamin or additional supplements.