Alberta Cancer Foundation

Ask the Expert: How to Eat More Protein During Treatment


Q: I’ve been told I should increase my calorie and protein intake during cancer treatment. Do you have any tips on how I can do this?

Katherine Younker, manager of Education Resources at Alberta Health Services, says that even a little more protein and calories every day can help you to maintain or gain weight and strength during treatment. She provides the following suggestions:

  • Try to eat every 2 to 3 hours, even when you don’t feel hungry.
  • When you feel well, make larger amounts and freeze meals in single portions. Or, try frozen TV dinners or meal services.
  • Most fluids, especially clear broth, coffee and tea are low in calories. Drink fluids between meals or at the end of your meal.
  • Limit foods and drinks that are labelled “light,” “low fat,” “fat-free,” “low calorie” or “sugar-free.”

In addition, here are some foods she suggests that are higher in calories and protein:

  • Meat, fish, and poultry are good sources of ­protein. So are dried, cooked beans, peas, lentils, tofu, and eggs. Have these foods with your meals and snacks.
  • Choose higher fat milks like 3.25% (homogenized) or 2%, or flavoured milks like chocolate or strawberry.
  • Try adding skim milk powder or evaporated milk to soups, puddings, milkshakes, and casseroles.
  • Add Greek-style yogurt to fruit and vegetables, dressings, soups, or smoothies.
  • Choose egg dishes like soufflés, quiches, and omelettes. Add eggs to dishes like casseroles, hot cereal, fried rice, or stir-fries.
  • Snack on nuts, seeds, hemp hearts, or trail mix.

“If you try these tips and are still worried about your appetite or your weight, ask your health-care provider to refer you to a registered dietitian,” says Younker.