Eating well

Loss of appetite and weight loss are both very common in people with lung cancer. There can be many different reasons for it – the cancer itself, your treatment or medication, or through worry or anxiety. People with lung cancer can often experience difficulty chewing and swallowing.

However, it is really important to try and eat a varied and nourishing diet. Our practical tips can help mealtimes become a little more manageable.

Top tips for eating well with lung cancer

Dietitian, Rebecca Little, offers eating advice for people living with lung cancer

Little and often: Smaller meals can be less of a challenge than a big plateful of food. Try three small meals with extra snacks and nourishing drinks in between.

Try softer, moist food: Things like nourishing soups, scrambled eggs, pasta in a cheesy sauce, vegetable bakes, slow cooker stews or fish or mince with mashed potatoes can be easier on your throat.

Don’t drink a lot a fluid before a meal: This can make you feel full and reduce your appetite.

Take nutritional supplements: These can be added to everyday food such as milkshakes, soups, juices, yogurts and puddings. They can be consumed on their own as an addition to your usual diet, or they may be used to replace a meal when you are unable to eat.

Eat high calorie and high protein food: If you are experiencing weight loss, add ‘extra’ calories to your meals.

  • Add butter, olive oil grated or cream cheese, or cream to savoury foods.
  • Enrich puddings and fruit with cream, evaporated milk, ice cream, honey, jam or syrup.
  • Using mayonnaise, salad dressings and olive oil drizzled through soups or on bread can also be good ways to increase your calorie intake.
  • Try to include protein in each meal. Eggs, meat, fish, soya, Quorn, milk and dairy products, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds and quinoa are all good protein-rich foods.

Eat when you feel hungry: If your appetite is better at a particular time of day, plan to eat at that time even it’s not a ‘typical’ meal time.

Get some fresh air: Fresh air can stimulate the appetite, so try and go outside whenever possible, or sit by an open window before mealtimes

Accept help: Sometimes you may simply feel too tired to cook. Friends and relatives can often want to help by bringing you meals, so take them up on the offer.

Liz accepted the help from her family and friends

I’ve had food parcels delivered to my door in case I don’t feel like cooking one night. Friends would turn up and say here’s a pasta bake for the boys.

Liz, living with lung cancer

Ready meals are your friends: Let the supermarket do the hard work and take advantage of convenience foods and ready-made meals. Frozen meal companies can also be very helpful, and a great way to get quick, tasty and nourishing meals delivered to your door.

Something is better than nothing: If you really aren’t able to eat anything, have a nourishing drink instead. Fortified milk is good for this. Just add three or four tablespoons of skimmed milk powder to a pint of full fat milk. You can then use this in hot drinks or blended with milkshake powder, fruit or ice cream. Keep it in the fridge and use within 24 hours.

If you are struggling with your appetite, please talk to your dietitian or other healthcare professional for advice. They may prescribe nutritional supplements that can improve your overall intake.