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By Jo-Anne M. Rizzotto, M.Ed, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.

Created: 09/22/2009
Last Updated: 05/04/2012

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Q: I share information I receive from boutron with several of my friends, one of whom would like to gain weight. She has breast cancer and finished her last chemotherapy treatment one month ago. Do you have any helpful tips I can pass along to her regarding gaining weight in a healthy way?

Chemotherapy drugs can interfere with one's ability to eat. The type of chemotherapy drugs and how they are taken influences the type of side effects someone experiences. Weight loss is a common side effect.

Some helpful tips:

  • Eat small meals or snacks every one to two hours.
  • Avoid drinking liquids with meals to keep from feeling full early (unless needed for swallowing).
  • Drink fruit juices or low-fat milk in place of some of the water that you drink.
  • Cook foods with healthy oils, such as canola or olive oil, and don't be afraid to add a trans-fat-free margarine or regular salad dressing to your foods.
  • Add avocado and olives to your salads.
  • Ask your health care professional about medications to help relieve any side effects, such as nausea or pain.
  • Set a pretty table to create a pleasant eating environment.
  • Keep some high-protein, high-calorie snacks on hand.
    • Sprinkle seeds or nuts on desserts, such as fruit, pudding or custard, as well as on vegetables, salads and pasta. Spread natural peanut butter or nut butters on whole grain toast.
    • Make a trail mix with dried fruit and a variety of natural nuts-it's portable and handy when away from home.
    • Use fortified milk* (or evaporated milk) for cooking in place of water when making cereal or cream soups; also use it for mashed potatoes or puddings.
    • Make a smoothie: mix four ounces of fortified milk with a package of Carnation Instant Breakfast, fruit and four ounces of low-fat, Greek-style yogurt.

*Fortified milk can be consumed by itself or used in cooking to add protein and calories. Recipe: Blend one quart of low-fat milk and one cup of nonfat dry milk. Chill for at least six hours. It can also be made with buttermilk and dry buttermilk.

Some free, reputable resources:

  • American Cancer Society: 1-800-ACS-2345 or

  • American Institute for Cancer Research: 1-800-843-8114 or