Helping someone else manage their diet

Caring for someone with weight loss

If you're the main carer for someone with cancer, it can be upsetting and difficult to know how to deal with their loss of appetite or weight loss. Here are some suggestions for carers about coping with food preparation and mealtimes:

Knowing when someone's appetite is at its best means you can make the most of it and treat them to their favourite foods.

Rather than aiming for three meals a day, try to encourage the person you're caring for to eat 5–6 smaller meals throughout the day. This can be a difficult change to make when you are used to the routine of having three meals a day.

Gently encourage the person you’re caring for to eat routinely but try not to push them too much. It helps to create a relaxed atmosphere at mealtimes.

Keep servings small and offer second helpings rather than putting too much food on their plate to begin with.

Keep nibbles within someone’s reach so that they’re ready whenever the person feels hungry. Have a look at the shopping list on page and perhaps stock up on some items you know your loved one prefers so that you can prepare meals and snacks easily.

Be aware of how energy supplements can be used in everyday meals and drinks so that you can add energy to them. For example by adding fortified milk to tea or coffee as required.

There are suggestions and building-up recipes available in our recipes section. There are also recipes available from the different companies that make the energy supplement drinks and powders.

Make batches of a favourite vegetable soup and freeze some for a quick meal at a later date. Do not freeze anything that has had cream added to it.

An aperitif, such as sherry or brandy, half an hour before a meal is a good way of stimulating someone’s appetite. Some people find a glass of wine with their meals helps their digestion. Check with your doctor or specialist nurse that the person you’re caring for can have alcohol.

Try to talk openly to the person you care for about their weight loss and the different ways you could both manage it. This can help you both feel more in control of the situation.

Don’t be surprised if the person you’re caring for finds their tastes change from day to day throughout their treatments.

If someone’s sense of taste or smell has changed it can sometimes help to serve food cold or at room temperature.

Use plastic cutlery if the person affected by cancer notices a metallic taste in their mouth.

If the person you’re caring for finds that certain cooking smells make them feel sick, prepare food in a different room if possible. Serve food in a well-ventilated room.

Take special care while preparing food when the person you care for may be at risk of infections. The doctors or dietitian at the hospital will be able to advise you about this.

Back to Preventing weight loss

The building-up diet

If you’ve lost weight during your cancer treatment, the building-up diet will help provide you with more energy.

Boost your energy and protein intake

You can boost your energy intake by taking food supplements or by eating foods naturally high in energy and protein.

Stock your cupboards

There are several types of food that can be particularly helpful in the building-up diet.

Sample menus

You can increase your energy intake by preparing your meals slightly differently. Our menus offer  some suggestions.