Meal ideas

We have suggested some ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and pudding. They show you how you can boost your protein and energy intake without having to eat more food. These are only suggestions, but we hope they give you some ideas for ways to adapt your usual meals.

Between meals, you can keep up your energy intake with nourishing snacks and drinks.

We have recipes for people affected by cancer with more suggestions of meals suitable for people with weight loss. The recipes have information about how much protein and energy is in each meal.


Below are some suggestions:

  • A fried egg with bacon and a slice of fried bread.
  • Scrambled eggs or an omelette with grated cheese. Add toast with lots of butter or ghee.
  • An English muffin or crumpet with lots of butter and honey or jam. Then have some stewed fruit, such as prunes or apricots, with Greek or full-fat yoghurt.
  • Porridge made with fortified milk, with sugar or honey added.
  • Toast with lots of butter and jam, honey or peanut butter.
  • Yoghurt with nuts, seeds and dried fruit, or dalia (wheat porridge) with butter.
  • Cornmeal porridge and Caribbean hard-dough bread with butter.
  • Minced-beef congee or assorted dumplings. Add some deep-fried peanuts.
  • A whole-wheat cereal such as Weetabix®, with fortified milk and sugar. Then have toast and spread it with lots of butter and jam, peanut butter or sliced banana.

Try drinking fruit juice or a smoothie after breakfast.

Soups were a very good source of calories and nourishment and can be varied by using different ingredients and blending finely.



Below are some suggestions:

  • A tuna and cucumber sandwich with lots of butter, mayonnaise or salad cream.
  • A hard-boiled egg sandwich or a chicken sandwich.
  • A baked potato with grated cheese. Mash the inside of the potato with extra butter. Add a bowl of baked beans and a side salad with dressing, mayonnaise or salad cream.
  • A cheese and salad sandwich. Be generous with the filling and add mayonnaise.
  • Stuffed paratha or chapati with vegetables or rice, vegetable curry, hard-boiled egg and potato curry. Use ghee, butter or extra oil for cooking.
  • Steamed red mullet with vegetables, topped with some olive oil or butter and served with rice or potatoes.
  • Noodles, plain rice or fried rice with mixed seafood or meat and vegetables.
  • Chicken soup and a hard-boiled egg sandwich.

Try having rice pudding or some fruit after lunch too. We have more ideas for puddings below.


Below are some suggestions:

  • Lasagne or spaghetti bolognese with cheese. You could use a meat substitute, such as soya mince, Quorn or lentils, for a vegetarian option. Add a side salad with dressing, mayonnaise or salad cream.
  • Grilled salmon or trout, with new potatoes and green beans. Use tartar sauce and add butter to the vegetables.
  • Roast chicken with potatoes and fresh vegetables. Add butter to the vegetables and potatoes.
  • Lamb curry with pulses (or use soya mince, Quorn or lentils) and salad.
  • Khichari (lentils and rice), lentil soup or shorba (lamb and chicken soup).
  • Caribbean chicken with mashed potato (with added butter, cream and cheese), callaloo and sweetcorn. Add butter to the vegetables.
  • Winter melon soup with spare ribs.
  • Steamed fish with black bean sauce and plain rice.
  • Shepherd’s pie with carrots and peas (or use soya mince, Quorn or lentils). Serve with butter and use fortified milk in the mashed potato or grated cheese on top.

Try having fruit, custard or fruit crumble after dinner.

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.)


Below are some suggestions:

  • Stewed fruit with fresh cream.
  • Fruit crumble with fresh cream or custard.
  • Fruit yogurt or fromage frais – choose a full-fat variety.
  • Fresh custard – ready-made or made with fresh cream.
  • Fresh fruit such as mango, orange, banana, lychee or pineapple.
  • Fruit or chocolate trifle – choose a full-fat variety.
  • Rice pudding.

Try adding ice cream, cream or evaporated milk to cold puddings. Try adding custard made with fortified milk to hot puddings. You could add sugar or syrup to puddings too. Try making instant desserts with fortified milk.

You could also try some pudding recipes using different ready-made or powdered supplements. Manufacturers of nutritional products often have recipe booklets. Check the packets or their websites for more information.

From having radiotherapy I lost my taste for food and a stone in weight, and it made me really weak. The Macmillan dietitian has been very good to me, she’s lovely and has recommended drinks and desserts to build up my strength.



Keep snacks to eat if you feel hungry between meals. For example, you could try:

  • nuts
  • pasteurised cheese
  • fresh or dried fruit
  • biscuits
  • crackers
  • breadsticks and dips
  • yoghurts or fromage frais
  • a bowl of cereal with milk.

If you are out of the house for some time during the day, for example if you are going to radiotherapy appointments, think about taking some snacks or a nourishing drink with you.


Add energy and protein to coffee, tea or bedtime drinks, by using fortified or full-fat milk instead of water. Or add three teaspoons of a high-energy powder (prescribed by your doctor or dietitian) to hot or cold drinks. Ready-made nutritional supplement drinks can be drunk straight from the packet, gently heated or used in recipes.

If you can’t face a meal, you could try a nourishing drink instead. You can also drink these between meals to help you put on weight.

You might want to make your own drinks, such as fruit milkshakes or smoothies. Here are some examples:

  • Fruit smoothie – blend fresh banana, peaches, strawberries or other soft fruit (fresh or frozen) with fortified milk, fruit juice, ice cream or yoghurt.
  • Milk smoothie – blend 200ml of full-fat milk, 2 tablespoons of milk powder, 2 scoops of ice-cream and some milkshake syrup or powder. You could use Nesquik® or Crusha® and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how much to add. Blend until well-mixed and frothy. You can change the flavour of the ice cream to match the milkshake syrup or powder.
  • Nutritious milkshake – mix fortified milk with puréed fruit or a fruit yoghurt and add 2 to 3 teaspoons of a high-energy powder supplement (prescribed by your GP or dietitian). A scoop of ice cream will add extra energy.

Substituting ingredients

Feel free to use different ingredients from the ones we have suggested.

If you do not eat dairy products, you can replace:

  • milk with soya, oat, rice, hazelnut, almond or coconut milk
  • cream with coconut cream
  • butter with olive oil, rapeseed oil, vegetable or coconut oil, or dairy-free spreads
  • yoghurt with soya or coconut yoghurt.

Spices can help if you have lost some sense of taste or smell and want something with strong flavours (check the packaging to see how hot or spicy it is). But if highly flavoured foods do not appeal to you, make these dishes milder by swapping ingredients or adding natural yoghurt.

Back to Preventing weight loss

The building-up diet

If you have lost weight during cancer treatment, the building-up diet will help to give you more energy.

Shopping list

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