Diet during cancer treatment: Tips on managing appetite and weight loss

August 11, 2014 | by

Appetite loss may be common during cancer treatment, lasting throughout your therapy or only occasionally, but it can be managed.

snacks and cancer treatment

Keep snacks close at hand during cancer treatment in order to take advantage of  the moments when you feel like eating.

Below are tips from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that can help you keep your weight up and, in doing so, keep your body well-nourished. (See the end of this article for a delicious chocolate-avocado smoothie recipe that's perfectly in line with these recommendations.)

  • When it’s hard to eat, drink a liquid or powdered meal replacement.
  • Drink liquids throughout the day. Liquids like juice, milk, soup and other drinks can still provide calories and other nutrients.
  • Change the form of a food. Instead of eating a piece of fruit, make a fruit milkshake.
  • Sip only small amounts of liquids during meals. Many people feel too full if they eat and drink at the same time.
  • Eat five to six small meals each day instead of three large meals. This will also help you from feeling too full.
  • Keep snacks nearby for when you do feel like eating. Great easy-to-carry snacks are peanut butter crackers, nuts, granola bars or dried fruit.
  • Add extra protein and calories to your diet.
  • Eat a bedtime snack. This will give extra calories but won’t affect your appetite for the next meal.
  • Eat soft, cool or frozen foods like yogurt, milkshakes and popsicles.
  • Eat larger meals when you feel well and are rested.
  • Exercise. If you are able to do light exercise during treatment, being active will help improve your appetite. Studies show that many people with cancer feel better they get some exercise each day.
  • Have relaxed and pleasant meals. It helps when you eat meals with people you enjoy, as well as having foods that look good to eat.

Take action:

Start incorporating these tips into your diet with this list of foods recommended by the NCI.

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Here's a great recipe from Chemo Bites to get you started.

Chocolate avocado smoothie

This chocolate avocado smoothie is made with ingredients that will keep you full and healthy.

CHOCOLATE AVOCADO SMOOTHIE

The avocado and banana are filling and the almonds give a boost of protein. Avocados also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Ingredients

2 cups almond milk

½ cup crushed ice

1 ripe banana

3 dates, pitted

1 tbsp honey

1 ripe avocado

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1/8 cup almonds

1 ½ tsp golden flaxseed

Directions

Combine all ingredients into a high powered blender.

Blend for 30 seconds. Check consistency. Blend longer, if needed.

If you like a more watery consistency, add extra almond milk little by little.

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Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.