When Someone Has Poor Appetite
Poor appetite is common with cancer treatments between the fatigue and the side effects. Here are some tips to help you or your loved ones deal with poor appetite.
Remember Why You Need Nutrition
- Feel better
- Increase energy and strength
- Maintain healthy weight
- Tolerate treatment side effects better
- Recover and heal as quickly as possible
Follow These Tips
- Eat 5-6 small meals so you don’t get too tired
- Try to be physically active, as recommended by your doctor, to increase energy
- Make your eating area pretty with flowers and napkins
- Keep healthy snacks on hand so you don’t go longer than 2-3 hours without eating
- Plan ahead so that friends and family can help you shop and meal prep for the week
- Eat high calorie and high protein foods throughout the day so you’re getting good fuel every time you eat
- Try nutrition supplement drinks to get more calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals
My intern has been working hard identifying recipes for making nutritional supplement drinks (like Ensure, Boost, Carnation Instant Breakfast, etc.) taste better. One of the common complaints for people who have to consume them is that they don’t taste good.
These drinks aren’t necessary for everyone, but the one case that they’re recommended for sure is when a person cannot consume enough food to meet their calorie, protein and other nutrient needs. For some going through cancer treatment, this is a significant issue!
Tips for Drinking Ensure
The added vitamins and minerals can give nutrition supplement drinks an unpleasant taste. Because of this, it is best to drink these drinks:
- cold AND
- over ice AND
- in a cup with a lid and a straw.
Try different flavors, like chocolate, vanilla, and even butter pecan, and remember you can blend them into smoothies, milkshakes, and even make ice cream and pudding with them! Look out for our recipes in the recipe and video sections.
I appreciate this advice on liquid supplements. I had radiation to my spine two months ago that is still affecting my ability to eat and swallow. The estimate I was given of “two weeks of mild esophagus discomfort” meant that I didn’t even look at nutritional supplements. I didn’t think I’d need them! When the esophagial side effects lingered, my doctors suggested milkshakes. I became very weak after following this advice. I didn’t need calories. I needed nutrition. We all do! Thanks for the sound advice. You are an outstanding resource for cancer patients and the public.
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN says
Thanks for your comment – I appreciate the encouragement! Sometimes healthcare providers aren’t quite as clear as they should be about expectations. I’m glad that you’ve figured out some strategies that work for you and hopefully your esaphagitis is gone soon. Let me know if I can help with anything! – Julie
Kairi Gainsborough says
Thanks for the advice on staying healthy when you have lost your appetite. My grandma has lost a bit of weight since starting treatment for breast cancer, so I want to help her stay healthy. I’ll be sure to pick up a bunch of quick snacks that we can have throughout the day, and I’ll check to see that they are high in calories and protein.
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN says
She’s lucky to have you!!
Collette Props says
I just never get hungry. No cancer that I’m aware of, but really bad teeth prevent me from chewing comfortably, which may have something to do with it.
Recently tried ensure and it’s kinda gross which makes ingesting it even harder, so articles like this are really helpful.♡
Just wanted to thank you for putting this together.