Recipes for Managing Side Effects Series: Loss of Appetite
Cancer treatment may have a significant impact on your appetite. Whether it’s the pain from mouth sores, general nausea, or food just not tasting like it used to, eating during this time can be a challenge. With the right approach, though, you can help your body get the fuel it needs. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Listen to your body. What’s keeping you from eating? If it’s tenderness in your mouth or throat, try soft foods like smoothies, yogurt, and warm broths. If you’re only hungry in the middle of the day, try to eat your biggest meal then. Do you tend to feel full very quickly? Try minimizing how much fluid you drink during a meal, saving that space for more nutrient dense foods.
- Make it special. Eating is just as much ceremony as it is necessity, so try and set the mood. You can try creating some ambience with a nice place setting, dinner music, and a few candles around your favorite dish.
- Start small and work your way up. You may not be ready for a full plate right away and that can prevent you from trying to eat at all. Instead, try ordering or preparing foods that can be eaten little by little, allowing you to save the rest for later.
- Pack your food with a punch. If you can only get yourself to eat here and there, try to pack those meals with calorie and nutrient dense foods such as nut butters, cheeses, starchy vegetables, and granolas. Even small bites of these can help nourish your body while it heals.
Ritz Peanut Butter Bites
For some, cooking may feel too much like a chore. However, providing your body with nutrition during this time is particularly crucial. Pairing simple, inexpensive foods such as Ritz crackers and peanut butter, along with other ingredients you like, is a fast and easy way to get fuel into your system. The combinations are endless, but here are a few that may do the trick:
- Ritz cracker + 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter + sprinkle of honey + dash of cinnamon
- Ritz cracker + 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter + chocolate morsels
- Ritz cracker + 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter + 2 teaspoons of strawberry or grape jelly
- Ritz cracker + 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter + 1 slice of banana or apple
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[iv] Loss of Appetite. American Cancer Society. Updated February 1, 2020. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/eating-problems/poor-appetite.html
[v] No appetite? How to get nutrition during cancer treatment. Mayo Clinic. Updated October 15, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer/art-20045046
[vi] Pilgrim AL, Robinson SM, Sayer AA, Roberts HC. An overview of appetite decline in older people. Nurs Older People. 2015;27(5):29-35. doi:10.7748/nop.27.5.29.e697
[vii] Ukovic B, Porter J. Nutrition interventions to improve the appetite of adults undergoing cancer treatment: a systematic review. Support Care Cancer. 2020;28, 4575–4583. https://doi-org.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/10.1007/s00520-020-05475-0