Tips for losing weight

There are things you can do yourself to help you lose weight. These include changing your eating habits, such as what you eat and the size of the portions. Making sure you always have breakfast is a good way to start the day. This will mean you will feel less hungry during the morning so are less likely to snack. Making sure you drink enough is important too.

As well as eating healthy food, cutting down how much you eat will also help you lose weight. Eating off a smaller plate, eating slowly and not having second helpings will all help you eat less.

Try not to have too many fast foods as these are usually high in energy and fat. Even when losing weight you may still want to eat out or have a take away meal. You can always think about healthier options on the menu or ask if you can have a smaller portion.

Remember alcohol also has calories. It’s important to stick to government guidelines for how much alcohol to drink.

Healthy eating tips

As well as making healthy choices when choosing or cooking your food, these tips will help you cut down how much you eat.

Change your habits

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast – this will help you cut out morning snacks and feel less hungry at lunchtime.
  • Eat at the table rather than in front of the TV. Concentrating on your food helps you enjoy it more and makes you feel more full. This makes it easier to avoid snacking between meals.
  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Sometimes we mistake being thirsty for being hungry. Have a glass of water before meals.
  • Tell your family and friends what you’re doing so they can support you.

Cut down portion size

The amount you eat is just as important as what you eat. If you eat large portions, you‘re more likely to gain weight. There are things you can do to help cut down your food portions:

  • Use a smaller dinner plate – bigger plates need more food to fill them.
  • Enjoy a healthy starter, such as low-fat soup, melon or salad, before your main meal.
  • Eat slowly and avoid second helpings. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full, so rest for a while before deciding whether you want more.
  • It’s important not to miss out on main meals.
  • Avoid snacking straight from a bag or packet. Put the amount of food you want to eat on a plate.

An image of a clinical oncologist talking to a nurse

Cancer and eating playlist

Watch our videos about cancer, eating and managing your diet during treatment. (This playlist includes British Sign Language interpretations.)

Cancer and eating playlist

Watch our videos about cancer, eating and managing your diet during treatment. (This playlist includes British Sign Language interpretations.)

Fast foods and eating out

Fast food is usually high in energy and fat. If you eat a lot of fast food, it’s important to cut down.

Last-minute eating decisions can result in buying fast food and take away food, so try to plan your healthy meals and snacks in advance. You can do this by recording what you eat in our food and activity planner.

Even when you’ve changed to a healthier way of eating, there may be times you want to be more relaxed about it. You can still enjoy the occasional treat or a meal out with family or friends.

If you are having take away food or eating out, you could:

  • look for the healthier options on the menu
  • ask about the ingredients in meals
  • ask for a smaller portion size
  • order a starter as a main course
  • share a main course with someone
  • order fruit salad for dessert.

We have more information and advice about healthy eating and cancer

Healthy menu ideas

In this section there are some ideas for healthy meals and snacks. There’s one for every day of the week.

You can use our food and activity planner for planning your meals.


  • Wholegrain cereal with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.
  • Sliced fresh fruit or berries with low-fat yoghurt.
  • Boiled, poached or scrambled eggs with wholemeal toast.
  • A bagel with mashed banana.
  • A homemade smoothie, made by adding blended fruit to some fresh fruit juice and low-fat yoghurt.
  • Porridge with dried fruit and semi-skimmed milk.
  • A Sunday ‘grill-up’ instead of a fry-up.


  • Homemade vegetable soup with a wholemeal bread roll.
  • Baked beans on toast.
  • A baked potato with tinned tuna (in spring water), served with sweetcorn or low-fat coleslaw.
  • Wholemeal pitta bread with salad and cold, lean meat.
  • Pilchards, sardines or mackerel on toast.
  • A wholemeal bread sandwich with tuna, egg or cold meat, served with salad.
  • Leftovers from a healthy dinner.


  • Thai vegetable curry and brown rice.
  • Wholegrain pasta with a low-fat sauce, vegetables and a side salad.
  • Salmon steak with lemon juice, served with boiled or baked potatoes and vegetables.
  • Chicken, sweetcorn and noodle soup.
  • Wholegrain pasta with tuna and a side salad.
  • Turkey chow mein, mushrooms, red pepper, pak choi, carrot and Chinese egg noodles.
  • Lean beef casserole with potatoes and vegetables.


  • Fresh fruit.
  • Seeds, mixed nuts and berries (it’s cheaper to buy them in bulk, from a health food shop).
  • Oatcakes with cherry tomatoes.
  • Fresh carrots or celery sticks dipped into a low-fat dip such as hummus or salsa.
  • A handful of raisins or other dried fruit.
  • Homemade plain popcorn.
  • A low-fat fruit yoghurt.

The World Cancer Research Fund website also has healthy recipes from all over the world.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet does not mean that you have to buy expensive foods. Although it is not specifically for people with cancer, the NHS Choices video Eating well on a budget has useful tips on how to eat well for less.

I gained a lot of weight during my treatment. My nutritionist advised me to eat healthy snacks every four hours with three main meals.



Alcohol is high in calories and can lead to weight gain. It’s also linked with an increased risk of some cancers. Sticking to sensible drinking guidelines is good for your health and your weight.

Government guidelines now recommend that it is best if both men and women do not drink any more than 14 units of alcohol per week. If you do drink as much as 14 units, it is best to spread this evenly over 3 days or more. If you want to cut down on the amount you are drinking, a good way is to have several drink-free days.

Number of calories and units of alcohol per drink

DrinkCaloriesUnits of alcohol
Pint of lager170 to 2502
Standard glass of white wine
130 to 1602
Single vodka
(25ml with a mixer)

To help you cut down on calories when drinking alcohol, you could

  • have a shandy using a low-calorie lemonade
  • add low-calorie or calorie-free mixers to spirits or white wine in a tall glass
  • alternate alcoholic drinks with low-calorie, non-alcoholic ones
  • have a glass of water alongside an alcoholic drink.

Back to Managing weight gain

Weight gain and cancer

Some cancer treatments, side effects or even lifestyle changes can cause weight gain.