8 tips for overcoming poor appetite
Poor appetite is one of the most common side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. A decrease in appetite and the amount of food and beverages consumed on a daily basis may result in unintended weight loss. In many cases, appetite does not generally improve during cancer treatments (unless an appetite stimulant is prescribed), though eating well is essential to helping the body tolerate treatment and heal appropriately.
If you or a loved one has a poor appetite during cancer treatment, consider trying these ideas:
- Set a schedule and stick with it. Eat every 2-3 hours.
- Pre-plan your meals. Make a list of all of the foods planned for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week. Changes to the menu are OK, but try to follow it as closely as possible.
- If coming up with foods that sound appetizing is a problem, come up with three food options then choose the one that sounds most appealing.
- Just because your body’s internal hunger signals aren’t working properly doesn’t mean you don’t need to eat. Use external cues to remind you to eat, such as trying to eat or drink something during every TV commercial; setting an egg timer, alarm clock on your cell phone or reminder on the computer to eat every two to three hours.
- Use salad plates instead of dinner plates. Larger plates can often make food sizes overwhelming, whereas smaller plates can make them seem more manageable.
- High calorie liquids can be a great way to increase caloric intake. Since it requires less effort to consume liquids than solid foods, it may be helpful to consume high calorie fluids. These may include cream soups such as black bean, split pea, ham and bean or broccoli cheddar; chili; commercial nutrition supplements such as Ensure or Boost; or homemade milkshakes or smoothies.
- Avoid foods or beverages low in calories such as diet pop, black coffee, tea without added ingredients and Jell-O.
- Take medications with a high calorie beverage.