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Tackling Cancer & Weight Loss

By Hilary Wright, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

There are many reasons people with cancer lose weight.  Causes include depression, fatigue, pain, altered taste perception, side effects of treatment, or obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract. Often consumption of a high calorie, high protein, beverage may help reverse weight loss.

Psychological distress also can play a major role in weight loss. The anxiety that comes with receiving a diagnosis of cancer, the intensified feelings of anxiety and depression, and the possibility of pain, all can cause weight loss. Once a particular psychological issue is addressed, some of the weight loss may be reversed.

Caregivers should try to serve a variety of foods, since lots of nutrients from many different sources are required to meet physical and nutritional needs. Caregivers can help people with cancer create a flexible, personalized nutritional plan that will be easy to adapt to their ever-changing needs. Following are guidelines to help create the basis for a sound, nutritional program.

Adding Calories

There are many ways to add calories, and eating high calorie foods is a good place to start. Caregivers and people with cancer can enjoy adding the following to increase calorie intake:

  • Melt margarine onto hot foods such as toast, soups, vegetables, cooked cereals, rice and soft-boiled eggs.

  • Choose mayonnaise instead of salad dressing for use in meat salads, in deviled eggs and on lettuce.

  • Serve peanut butter - also high in protein - with an apple, banana, or pear, or spread it on a sandwich with mayonnaise.

  • Top puddings, pies, hot chocolate, fruit, gelatin and other desserts with whipped cream. Cook with heavy cream instead of milk.

  • Sprinkle nuts or seeds on vegetables, salads, and pasta, or sprinkle on desserts such as fruits, ice cream, pudding and custard.

Adding Protein

It can be extremely beneficial for a person with cancer to receive extra protein, especially if they are healing after surgery. The following suggestions will help provide more healing proteins and extra calories to the diet:

  • Add nonfat dry milk or powdered protein supplements, like soy protein shakes, to regular milk. Also, they can be added to sauces and gravies or used for breading meat, fish or poultry.

  • Cook cereals with milk instead of water.

  • Use milk, half-and-half and evaporated milk when making instant cocoa, canned soups, mashed potatoes, and puddings.


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