When I was going through treatment, there were always high calorie foods in the chemo suite for patients to nibble on, typically sugary snacks like cookies and doughnut holes. I asked one of the oncology nurses who looked after me about this. Shouldn’t the snacks be healthier? She said that so many patients have problems eating during chemo causing debilitating weight loss, that the nurses tried to emphasize the importance of eating whatever high calorie foods a patient could manage during treatment to keep weight on. Aside from commercial nutrition shakes like Ensure, which patients generally don’t like much, choices like ice cream, donut holes and even fast foods, although counterintuitive from a healthy eating point of view, were worthwhile to help patients maintain their weight. But eating sugary foods can quickly get old, so we’ve put together some of our favorite high calorie meals. With the exception of a carrot date smoothie, all are savory. You don’t have to eat a whole portion, just what you can manage. And to make it easier to stay on the healthy side of high calorie eating during treatment, here are some of our own seemingly counter intuitive suggestions:
–Don’t shy away from eating fats. For example eat full fat dairy products instead of skim, butter and cheese. Eat the dark meat and skin on poultry
–Enjoy high fat fruits, for example avocados, coconut – milk and oil, also nuts and seeds, like walnuts, almonds etc and shelled sunflower seeds as well as nut and seed products like nut butters or tahini. Add these to veggie smoothies for some savory extra calories.
–When you feel ill, to eat foods that are easy to digest for example starchy fruits like bananas, and white foods pasta, potatoes, white bread and white rice, maybe with a little butter or olive oil if you can take it. White foods can sometimes be the right foods!
–When you’re feeling well, eat fats with healthy, high calorie and protein rich starches like beans, peas, and whole grains, as well as nutrient packed starchy veggies like winter squash or sweet potatoes. Coconut based curries will pack an even higher calorie punch in combo with brown rice for example.
–Try cooking with different spices to keep those chemo jaded taste buds engaged. Having your food taste good is half the battle.
Here are our anti-donut hole ideas for savory high calorie foods that will help you keep the weight on and your tastebuds happy.