anorexia – decreased appetite

Anorexia (loss of appetite) is a common problem for people receiving treatment for cancer. There are many reasons why this happens:  treatment, changes in taste, pain, fatigue and illness. However, good nutrition through a high calorie and high protein diet is a very important aspect of achieving and maintaining wellness.

Diet is an important part of your treatment plan; try some of the following ideas to help you improve your appetite:

  • BECOME A NIBBLER: Snack all day long. Eating 3 large meals daily may not be the answer for you if you don’t feel hungry, so spread out an equal amount of food over the whole day.  Perhaps 5 or 6 small meals will work better for you.
  • STAY AWAY FROM EMPTY CALORIES, like soft drinks:  Instead, concentrate on foods high in protein:  eggs, milk products, peas, beans, peanut butter, fish, tofu, etc.  Beef and chicken are good sources of protein; however, many people lose the taste for meats.
  • TRY NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS such as Ensure Plus, Glucerna, etc. or an instant breakfast.  You can also add cheese, sour cream, cream or half and half to other foods to increase calories.  Substitute whole milk or half and half for skim or 2% milk.  Cook hot cereals with whole milk instead of water.
  • EXERCISE BEFORE MEALS: Exercising for a few minutes will help stimulate your appetite.
  • AVOID DRINKING FLUIDS WITH MEALS since you may have a feeling of fullness.
  • EATING IS AS MUCH A SOCIAL EVENT AS A NUTRITIONAL ONE:  Eat with others, in a pleasant area, perhaps with soft music, at an attractive table.  Use small plates and small portions so you can be successful at completing your meal.  Or you can try small portions on a large plate and think, “Anyone can eat that much!”
  • BREAKFAST may be your BEST meal of the day, so try to eat 1/3 of your daily calories at that time.