Nutrition - Coping with weight loss

Tuesday 08 May 2018

This week I want to look at the other side of the coin so to speak from last week when I looked at how to cope with weight gain as a result of treatment. This week I thought we could look at weight loss and some strategies that may help.

Why might  people with cancer often lose weight?
There are many reasons why people would lose weight while going through the cancer process, a lot depends on the type of cancer you have, the type of treatment you receive and your general health.

We have looked at some of the main reasons why appetite may be reduced in previous blogs, i.e. coping with changes on taste and smell and a dry mouth  and coping with difficulties swallowing and nausea in previous blogs (There are links below to the blogs if you want a refresher). Other reasons may be due to pain , feelings of depression and anxiety or infections (particularly if they are in the mouth or digestive tract).

Managing weight loss

If possible the first step in treating appetite loss is to address the underlying cause. This may need some medical intervention. It is always important to make your cancer care specialist aware of any problems you may be experiencing so that the underlying causes can be addressed.

There are also some self help steps that you could try may may help arrest the weight loss.

  • Try to eat 5 or 6 mini meals or snacks a day or whenever you feel hungry. If you do not feel hungry then have set times in the day where you try to eat, with the understanding that it is important to try and maintain calorie intake and energy levels which in turn should help make you feel better by increasing your energy.
  • when you are hungry eat at whatever the time of day  and don’t limit the amount that you eat.
  • Drink fluids away from meals. Drinking during meal times may fill you up too quickly before enough food has been eaten.
  • Ask friends and family to shop or prepare food for you if you if you feel to tired or lack the motivation to cook,
  • Try to eat meals in pleasant surroundings.
  • It sometimes helps to put meals onto smaller plates.
  • Herbs and spices added to foods can lift the flavours and make the food more enjoyable.
  • Light exercise helps to stimulate appetite.
  • Try to choose nutritious foods that are high in calories and protein  (meat, eggs, fish, peas, beans and lentils) Check out blog 25 snack ideas which lists lots of light meal and snack ideas that you might find useful.

Other ideas that you might like to try

  • Whole nuts or ground nuts like ground almonds which will add calories, flavour and texture to foods especially soups and smoothies.
  • Hummus can now be bought in many lovely flavours and is good on crispbreads, toast or with a jacket potato.
  • Nut butters like cashew nut butter or almond nut butter which tend to be lower in salt and sugar than the more familiar peanut butters.
  • Tahini, which is ground up sesame seeds made into a paste that can be used like a nut butter, spread on toast or crisp breads or stirred into soups or casseroles to boost the calorie content  and nutritional value.
  • Soups enriched with protein powder and cold pressed oils.
  • Coconut oil, cold pressed seed oils and cold pressed nut oils. Coconut oil can be spread like butter on toast, The seed and nut oils need to be eaten cold to preserve their nutritional value. Try adding a tablespoon to smoothies or cooked  soups when they are at room temperature ready to eat.
  • Use protein powders, note that you can but whey protein powder, pea protein powder and hemp protein powders from most good health food shops. They are really useful to include as they will add good calories, help fight fatigue, stabilize blood sugar and help to prevent loss of muscle mass. The blog also includes a recipe for a build up drink that is really nutritious and useful for those with poor appetite or those who wish to build up.
  • Also avocados which when mashed are easy to eat and add a silky texture to any soup or drink that they are added to which makes the drink or soup easy to swallow
  • Dried fruit also makes a very easy handy snack to have easily to hand.
  • Baked egg custards sweetened with honey ot rice puddings made with rice milk and sweetened with honey.
  • And one of my childhood favourites French toast flavoured with cinnamon.

There are really no set rules for this as you can guess but the idea is to try and choose foods that are not only going to give you the necessary calories that you need but will also be good for you.

Nut butter spread (adapted from the book Eating hints before during and after cancer treatment by the National Cancer Institute). I have tried this with cashew nut butter which went well with vanilla essence. You could of course use almond nut butter and almond essence if you enjoy an intense almond flavour.

1 tablespoon of protein powder
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon of water
5 tablespoons of nut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Simply blend all the ingredients together and spread on wholemeal toast or crisp breads. The mixture can also be formed into balls, chilled and eaten like a sweet. This will make 6 tablespoons in total which is equal to 560 calories.

Blog originally written by Caroline Oct 2013

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