Gaining Weight on Low-Fat Diet

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Q: My husband has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and is not digesting fat well. Are there additives (low-fat, high-protein) like powders that I can add to his food to help him gain weight?

Liz, Chicago, Illinois 

A: When trying to gain weight, increase the total amount of calories in your day. In other words, an increase in food or calorically dense foods will add on the pounds. In a case where there is fat malabsorption and subsequent large and loose stools, it is best to minimize (but not eliminate) the amount of fat in the diet.

High-fat foods to limit or avoid:

  • Fried foods
  • Fatty meats (meat with gristle, skin of poultry, prime rib)
  • Oils, butter, margarine or regular salad dressing
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Full-fat milk products
  • Bakery products such as croissants and pastries

Ways to increase calories on a low-fat diet:

  • Small, frequent meals: 3 meals and 3 snacks a day.
  • Keep fluids to a minimum at meal times, but don't forget to drink between meals.
  • Add dried milk powder, whey or soy protein powder to foods (mashed potatoes, eggs, soups).
  • Consider high-carbohydrate and easy-to-digest foods such as: baked potato, Cream of Wheat, dry toast, rice, pasta, saltine crackers, animal crackers, and pretzels.
  • Snack on dried fruit and add to pancakes, grains, cereals, yogurt, chicken or vegetable salad. Cook in muffins, chicken or pork entrees.
  • Sip on higher calorie fluids such as juices (try cranberry, grape and nectars), milk, homemade smoothies, and commercial nutritional supplements, for example, Ensure or Boost.

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