Loss of appetite or weight during cancer treatment

Loss of appetite is a common side effect of cancer and its treatment. It can be due to depression, pain, loss of smell and/or taste, difficulty swallowing, or an early feeling of fullness. Most causes of loss of appetite resolve with time.

Tips to increase appetite and weight during cancer treatment

  • Eat any time there is an urge to eat.
  • Add butter, whole milk, and cheese sauces to appropriate food.
  • Eat small amounts of a favorite food every 2 hours.
  • Drink beverages between meals rather than with meals.
  • Exercise lightly to stimulate the appetite. Talk with your doctor first.
  • Keep nutritious snacks available (yogurt, cheese or peanut butter and crackers, hard cooked eggs).
  • Add dry milk powder to foods such as cream soup and mashed potatoes.
  • Enjoy meals in a pleasant atmosphere with soft music and a pretty table setting.
  • Try special occasion foods without the special occasion.
  • Skip traditional foods at specific meals and eat whatever sounds good at the time.
  • Use plates.
  • Carry portable snack foods.
  • Choose easy to chew foods, such as applesauce, pudding or yogurt.
  • Eat what is appealing rather than what is healthy.
Last reviewed: 
April 2018

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