Weight Gain During Cancer Treatment


Ask the Nutritionist

Q: Do you have suggestions for putting on weight in a healthy manner while undergoing treatment?

A: It is often necessary to change your eating habits during treatment to maintain a healthy weight.

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 nuts (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 with dried fruits and/or 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)
  • Try frying or cooking eggs for a meal. Add chopped hard-boiled 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.
  • Try adding peanut butter as a spread to whole grain breads or eat it with fruits like bananas and 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)

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

  • Eat small, frequent meals and snacks every couple of hours throughout the day.
  • Use small plates for meals opposed to full-size dinner plates.
  • Try not to snack too close to meal times to avoid feelings of fullness.
  • Do try to eat your favorite foods more often.
  • Limit fluids to a minimum at meals but make sure to drink fluids between meals.
  • Keep high-calorie snacks on hand at your house and bring these snacks with you when on the go.
  • Drink high-calorie fluids or 100 percent juices (orange juice, blueberry juice, V8, cranberry juice, milk), smoothies, yogurt drinks, or a commercial nutritional supplement, such as Mix 1, Ensure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, or Boost.

 
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  • Ask the Nutritionist

    • 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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