Gaining Weight without Sugar

Ask the Nutritionist

Q: How can a cancer survivor gain weight when they can't have sugar?

O, Brandywine, Maryland 

A: The idea that sugar feeds cancer is a very controversial topic that we address in a previous post, Sugar and Cancer Cells.

There are many strategies to gain weight as a cancer survivor. Eating small, frequent meals is a great strategy to increase the amount you eat over the day without feeling stuffed. Below are some foods and strategies to maximize healthy weight gain.

Here are some healthy foods you can eat to increase calories and gain weight:

  • Incorporating nuts and seeds into your diet is a heart healthy way to increase calories and aim for weight gain. Try adding walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, etc. to baked goods, breads, cereal, pancakes, salads, and ice cream or yogurts. (1/4 cup serving = 170 calories)
  • Trail mix or granola bars, or dried fruits such as cranberries or raisins, are a calorie-dense option that can be eaten as a snack or added to cereals and yogurts. (1/4 cup serving/bar = 120 calories)
  • Eggs can make a simple meal. Add chopped hardboiled eggs to salads, dressings, and casseroles, or beat eggs into sauces, custards, and baked goods. (1 large egg = 90 calories)
  • Olive and canola oil can be mixed into sauces, used as salad dressing, and added to yogurt frappes or smoothies as a great calorie boost that contains essential fatty acids that your body needs. You can also use oil to cook when stir-frying vegetables. (1 tbsp = 120 calories)
  • Try adding beans to soups, salads, or entrees.
  • Spread peanut butter on whole grain bread or eat it with bananas or apples for a healthy snack. (2 tablespoons = 190 calories)
  • Add cheese, bean spreads or hummus to vegetables. (1 oz. or 1/8 cup cheese = 100 calories; 1/4 cup hummus/bean spread = 100 calories)
  • Add avocado to sandwiches, in dips or in smoothies.

Here are some strategies you can try for healthy weight gain:

  • Use small plates for meals, as opposed to full-size dinner plates.
  • Try not to snack too close to meal times to avoid feelings of fullness.
  • Try to eat your favorite foods more often.
  • Limit fluids to a minimum at meals but make sure to drink between meals.
  • Keep healthy high-calorie snacks on hand at your house and bring these snacks with you when on the go.

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    • Do you have questions about making healthy food choices during and after cancer treatment? Our team of nutrition experts can help. Submit your question through our Ask the Nutritionist form.
    • To create a customized plan, please schedule an appointment with a Dana-Farber nutritionist by calling 617-632-3006.
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