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How to Gain Weight after Cancer Treatment

  • Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to help reduce your chance of developing cancer and help promote cancer survivorship. However, some people find that they lose weight as a result of their particular cancer or treatments and are concerned about how to gain back weight after treatment.

    When going through cancer treatment, it's common to experience a loss of appetite, taste changes, or other symptoms that make it difficult or less desirable to eat. At the same time, your metabolism may be more "revved up" and your body may require more calories than normal to maintain your weight. It's easy to see why you may be losing weight when you want to eat less, but your body requires more.

    There are steps you can take, however, to prevent excess weight loss and promote healthy weight gain during and after cancer treatment:

    • Try to eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day.
    • Use smaller plates and cups as typical-sized portions often seem overwhelming.
    • Try adding calorie-dense, nutritious foods such as nut butters and avocados to your diet.
    • Smoothies and soups are good sources of necessary liquids and lots of nutrients.
    • In addition to more calories, your body needs more nutrients and more protein. Protein is very important for the immune system, to fight fatigue, and to help maintain muscle mass.
    • Ask someone to help with food shopping and preparation to conserve your energy for eating.
    • Ask a family member or friend to pack a small cooler with quick and easy meals or nutritious snacks and fluids that you can keep with you while you are sitting and resting, or take with you on the go.

    Tip — Increase Calories and Nutrients with Smoothies

    Smoothies are a great way to pack in extra vitamins, minerals, fluid, fiber, protein and calories. They are also soothing if you are experiencing mouth sores. You can increase the calorie density of smoothies by adding nut butters, avocado, regular, plain Greek yogurt, flaxseed oil or other healthy oils. You can use fresh or frozen fruits and berries and a variety of liquid bases (almond milk, coconut water) to boost nutrients and add flavor. Watch a demonstration on how to make a fresh berry smoothie.

    Learn more about nutrition services at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and how you can eat well during cancer treatment.

    View more "Eating Well During Cancer" videos.

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  • Ask the Nutritionist
  • Health & Wellness
  • Nutrition Resources

    fresh fruit and vegetables

    Nutrition Services

    Our nutrition experts help patients follow a healthy diet during and after cancer treatment.

    Dana-Farber Nutrition Team

    Meet Our Nutritionists

    Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center has one of the largest outpatient oncology nutrition departments in the United States. Our team is a diverse set of professionals, each with a specialized area of expertise.

    Cowboy Cavier recipe

    Delicious and Nutritious Recipes

    Our recipes are developed by Dana-Farber's staff of registered and board-certified dieticians. They feature a varied selection of dishes – including a few sweet treats you don't need to feel guilty about.