There is no doubt in the world that undergoing cancer treatment is difficult. Chemotherapy and radiation can have many side effects, including weight loss, nausea, vomiting, taste changes, and loss of appetite, all of which can make it difficult to maintain your weight during cancer treatment.

Preventing weight loss (or regaining any weight that has been lost) can be very important for keeping your strength up during treatment.

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How to Maintain Your Weight During Cancer Treatment

Here are my three big tips for helping keep your weight up while you are undergoing cancer treatment:

1. Add an Adequate Source of Protein to Each Meal

Maintain Your Weight During Cancer Treatment

Protein is so important for helping keep your muscles strong, and will help keep your blood sugar stable.

Protein may not seem very appetizing at times, so keeping a few options around might make it more likely that you will eat it!

Don’t be afraid to use protein drinks if it is easier to drink food that chew and swallow it.

The amount of protein you need per day will vary per person, and your dietitian will be able to help you calculate your needs more specifically.

Maintain Your Weight During Cancer Treatment with Protein

Some good sources of protein are

  • Greek Yogurt- 15 g in 5.3 oz container 
  • Cottage Cheese- 1 cup has 25 g protein
  • Nut Butters- 2 Tbsp has 8 g protein 
  • Protein Powder- this is very dependent on the brand, I recommend a powder with around 20 g per serving 
  • Tofu- 1/2 cup has 10 g protein
  • Chicken, Fish, Beef or Pork- Also varies greatly depending on the type of meat, but 3 oz usually has around 21 g protein 
  • Eggs- 1 egg has 6 g protein
  • Hummus 1/4 cup has 5 g protein
  • Beans- 1/2 cup has 8 g protein 

2. Add in High Protein and High Calorie Snacks

Snacks are a great way to sneak in extra calories and protein if you need help maintaining or gaining weight.

Some snacks to try include:

  • Protein shake, made with 2%, whole milk or soy milk instead of water
  • 1/2 cup ice cream
  • Protein Jello
  • Nutrition Supplement Shakes (i.e Ensure*, Boost*, Enu, Kate Farms*, etc).
  • Protein Pudding

3. Fortify Parts of your Meal to Maintain Your Weight During Cancer Treatment

Maintain Your Weight During Cancer Treatment

Another way to add extra calories and protein to meals is to fortify the foods that you are already eating.

More tips to Maintain Your Weight During Cancer Treatment

To increase the caloric value, and add more protein, here are some ways to fortify your foods

  • Add 1 TBSP cheese and 2 TBSP of milk/soy milk to 2 scrambled eggs
  • Mix 1 TBSP cream and 2 TBSP butter to ½ cup mashed potatoes
  • Add 1 pack of BeneCalorie to any soup, shake, juice, or meal
  • Blend 1 avocado to any homemade smoothie
  • Mix 2 TBSP of nut butter into any whole milk greek yogurt
  • Drizzle food with flavored olive oil (garlic infused olive oil, herb infused olive oil)


More tips and tricks to help you during cancer treatment:

Take a look at these helpful blogs.

Cancer Diet Tips, Tricks and Recipes to Help You During Treatment

Cancer diet tips, tricks, & recipes

Foods that Taste Good during Chemo and Radiation Cancer Treatment

foods that taste good during chemoDoes Sugar Feed Cancer?

Breaking down nutrition myths

To learn more specifically how a dietitian can help you before, during and after cancer treatment, make an appointment with us by calling 301-474-2499 or clicking here.

how cancer dietitians can help you


-Blog reviewed and updated by Rebecca Bitzer MS RD LD September 10, 2021

Klara Knezevic is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Maryland. She has over a decade of experience in the nutrition field and currently serves as the CEO and co-owner of Rebecca Bitzer and Associates, one of the largest nutrition private practices in the country. Klara is passionate about sharing practical nutrition tips to help you feel confident in the choices that you make. Coauthor of Cooking with Food Sensitivities Survival Guide and Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating.