Like UW Carbone Cancer Center on Facebook

Poor Appetite

Cancer and cancer treatments may cause you to lose your appetite and your desire to eat. Poor nutrition may lead to weight loss, dehydration, weakness and fatigue. Proper nutrition is very important during your cancer treatment and recovery.

  • Stock your pantry with high calorie, high protein snacks like hard cooked eggs, granola bars, trail mix, cheese, ice cream, pudding, yogurt, cottage cheese, hearty soups, canned tuna and peanut butter.
  • Experiment with new foods you have never tried.
  • Instead of eating three large meals, consume small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day. Try to eat something every 2-3 hours.
  • Avoid drinking fluids while you are eating to prevent you from feeling full too quickly. If able, drink most of your fluids between meals.
  • Consume a larger meal higher in calories and protein if you find that your appetite is better at certain times of the day.
  • Include nutrition supplements while intake is low, like Ensure®, Ensure Clear®, Boost® and Carnation Instant Breakfast®. Use nutrition supplements in smoothies, shakes and baked goods.
  • Make mealtime relaxing and enjoyable. Eat a sit down meal with nice plates and maybe even colorful placemats or tablecloth. Turn on your favorite music. Eat meals with friends or family.
  • If you enjoy breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles or cereal, try having breakfast foods in the evening for dinner.
  • Take a walk before meals to help stimulate hunger. Be as physically active as possible with your doctor's permission and guidance.
  • If your appetite remains poor, ask your doctor about appetite stimulants. Appetite stimulants can sometimes be helpful.

These suggestions are not meant to replace talking to your doctor and registered dietitian. For more information regarding poor appetite, schedule an appointment with the Registered Dietitian at the UW Carbone Cancer Center by contacting Cancer Connect by calling (608) 265-1700.