Eating When You Have No Appetite

During treatment for cancer, eating right is important. Some people continue to enjoy food and have a normal appetite throughout their treatment. Others have days when they don’t feel like eating as much or don’t feel like eating at all. This is because treatment may change your sense of taste or cause nausea. You may even lose weight when you don't want to.

You may find these tips helpful from the American Cancer Society book What to Eat During Cancer Treatment:

  • Eat your biggest meal of the day when you feel hungriest, even if that means having a sandwich for breakfast or eggs for dinner.
  • Consider adding finely chopped meats, cheese, or hard-boiled eggs to soups, sauces, or casseroles for extra calories and protein.
  • Package leftovers in single-serving containers for convenient re-serving later; large servings can seem overwhelming when your appetite is poor.
  • If drinking seems easier than eating, sip hot cocoa, milk, milkshakes, smoothies, soups, or canned nutritional supplements.
  • Eat small, frequent snacks throughout the day.
  • Eat food cool or cold to decrease its smell and taste.

Appetite problems caused by treatment usually get better over time and tend to go away after treatment. But you may want to ask your cancer team about seeing a dietitian, an expert in nutrition who can give you more ideas on how to deal with these treatment side effects.

If you are caring for someone in cancer treatment, read our tips for cooking for someone with cancer.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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