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Living Healthy with Lung Cancer

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

August 23, 2021

Nutrition Tips for Lung Cancer Treatment

Lung cancer is one of the most hypermetabolic cancers, meaning that it has unusual increased demand for calories, proteins and nutrients. This high demand for nutrients can quickly lead to weight loss, weakness and fatigue, as well as loss of muscle mass, fat reserves and a reduction in functional capacity to perform activities of daily life.

People living with lung cancer often experience a reduced appetite, early satiety when eating, fatigue (tiredness), changes in taste, nausea and difficulty swallowing, among other symptoms.

The goal of nutrition intervention is to provide the calories and nutrients the body needs to maintain strength, weight, nutrition status and immune function. These factors can translate into a better quality of life, better tolerance to cancer treatments and better recovery between treatments, which can possibly result in less treatment interruption.

5 Tips for Dealing with Fatigue

  • Do not waste energy eating – choose soft and moist foods that are easy to chew and swallow
  • Prepare food and beverages with high-calorie and high-protein content to help make up for lost calories during the day. Try nutritional drinks that are made ready to drink
  • When cooking or buying food, prepare double the amount and freeze portions for later
  • Use grocery or meal delivery services to save energy on buying and preparing food
  • Ask friends and family to help you with grocery shopping and food preparation, if possible

5 Tips for Poor Appetite

  • Do not wait to feel hungry to eat and do not skip meals
  • Eat small amounts throughout the day instead of eating 3 large meals. If you have a hard time remembering to eat, try setting a timer to remind yourself
  • Make every bite count by choosing high-calorie and high-protein foods
  • Drink milkshakes, smoothies, or high-calorie/ high-protein nutritional drinks when you do not feel hungry. Drinking your calories can be easier than eating a large meal
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of liquids with your meals to prevent feeling full and eating less

5 Tips to Improve Your Appetite

  • A brisk walk can improve digestion and promote appetite
  • Keep your favorite ready-to-eat meals and snacks in your pantry and freezer
  • Keep a list of your favorite recipes, favorite snacks and favorite restaurant dishes for friends and family members who offer to help with cooking or shopping
  • Some medications can cause poor appetite. Speak with your health care team to assess if you might benefit from changing to a different medicine, dose of medicine, or a new medication schedule
  • Use distractions when eating such as people, music, TV, etc. You will not notice when you eat all of your food


Recipe of the Day

Chocolate Avocado Banana Pops


1 ripe fresh avocado, halved, pitted and peeled

2 large very ripe bananas, peeled and sliced

1 cup low-fat milk

4 dates, pitted and diced

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

6 oz. pop molds


  1. Place avocado, bananas, milk, dates and cocoa powder into a food processor. Process on high, scraping bowl as needed, until mixture is completely smooth and creamy
  2. Divide into 6, 6 oz. pop molds or paper cups. If using paper cups, cover with aluminum foil. Insert a wooden craft stick through the center of each foil
  3. Freeze for 4 hours, or overnight, until firm



Oncology Nutrition: Educational material and resources. Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group 2021.

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