Staying nourished during cancer treatment
During cancer treatment, staying nourished can become a chore, especially if you have lost your appetite or don’t feel well enough to eat. It’s a “Catch 22,” because you need to be fully nourished at the same time that you feel the least like eating.
Here are a few strategies to help boost your calorie intake, which will help you avoid weight loss and fatigue:
Eat smaller meals and eat more often.
If you aren’t able to consume your usual sized meal, try eating what you can, but do so more frequently. You can try to get nutrition in every 2 to 3 hours to optimize your intake.
Have higher-calorie foods available.
Keep nutritiously dense foods around to help increase your caloric intake. If you are eating small volumes, make the nutrition count with high-calorie, high-protein foods, such as peanut butter, tuna or chicken salads, nutritional supplements and foods that you enjoy.
Be physically active, with your physician’s approval.
Physical activity can stimulate appetite, even if it’s something as simple as walking around the neighborhood or doing housework.
Trigger your senses.
Sometimes, the smell of baking bread or thinking about a favorite food can help to trigger your appetite. Cooking a meal in a slow cooker during the day may wake up your taste buds.
Make mealtimes enjoyable.
Surround your mealtimes with friends, family, music and favorite dishes – even flowers at the table. Making it a social time and using brighter colors or lighting may help lighten your “food mood,” too.
Other causes of poor appetite and intake may be from side effects of your treatments, such as pain, constipation or nausea.
Discuss remedies of these with your health care provider so that you can focus on your daily activities – especially eating. You may also wish to talk to your doctor about medications to increase your appetite.