Tips for Coping with Loss of Appetite

(Information extracted from Julie C.  (2009). Eating well: A practical guide for people
living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders
.  Lilian D, Ed.). Australia: Leukaemia Foundation.)

There are many reasons for loss of appetite. These include the physical side-effects of
treatment as well as the psychological ones. Fear, anxiety and/or depression can all impact upon your desire for food. Most people find that although their appetite improves once they finish treatment, and/or leave hospital, it often takes some time before they are able to eat as much as they used to.

Rather than eating regular large meals, try eating small amounts of nutritious food more frequently (every couple of hours). This will help keep up your energy levels throughout the day.

Cancer treatment may especially deplete your body of protein. Try to eat three or four serves of protein a day, e.g. meat, chicken, fish, nuts, dairy, eggs, legumes.

It is always important to drink fluids so that you don’t become dehydrated. Nutritious
drinks like milkshakes, smoothies, high-protein soups and high-protein /high-energy drinks can make good substitutes for solid food during this period.

Try to listen to what your body is telling you and think about food in terms of taste and enjoyment first, then as a source of energy and nutrients for your body. The best food to
eat will be those you enjoy.

Try improving your appetite and your interest in food by using:

  • Colour. Try more colourful fruits and/or vegetables, like tomatoes, pumpkin, red and green capsicum, beetroot, and carrots, and other food like tomato pasta sauce, roasted vegies, spaghetti bolognaise or pasta with pesto sauce.
  • Smell. Try food which smells great such as fresh baked bread, fried onions and garlic, roasted chicken, hearty soups or cinnamon or nutmeg in desserts.
  • Texture. Try food with different textures like: crisp lettuce or rice crackers, soft bananas and custards (especially when your mouth is sore) and crunchy raw vegetables like carrots or celery, brazil, macadamia or almond nuts (these also stimulate saliva production).


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