Advice for Caregivers

Caregivers may find it difficult and frustrating to try to meet the nutritional needs of a family member or loved one who may not want to eat or who may have difficulty swallowing. Their diets can become very limited and weight loss can become obvious.

When your loved one does not feel like eating, it is important to be patient and encouraging. Often cancer patients don’t feel like eating 3 meals a day and what was once their favourite meals may no longer appeal to them. Try to encourage him/her to eat five or six small meals a day. If old favourites no longer appeal then perhaps new foods will be surprisingly well received. Cook in batches and keep food in the fridge and freezer in small portions that can be easily re-heated.

Some Other Useful Tips:

Offer favourite foods anytime of the day. It is ok to eat breakfast food later in the day or the main dish earlier in the day.

Prepare the biggest meal of the day when your loved one feels the hungriest. This may often be in the morning.

Pay attention to the appearance of food. If appetite is poor then the presentation of food can be off putting.

If your loved one is nauseous and sensitive to cooking smells, try to prepare meals in a different room or different location if possible from where they will be eating. Serving foods cool or at room temperature can also help to lessen smells.

Package leftovers in single serving containers and safely store for later or freeze for consumption on another day.

Spicy, greasy, fatty or heavy meals may not be well tolerated on an unsettled stomach.

Protein intake is very important to reduce muscle loss in cancer patients. Try to ensure they consume dishes with meat, fish, cheese, or eggs. Milk is also a very nourishing drink.

Drinking is often easier than eating. If your loved one does not feel like eating a meal, offer sips of smoothies, nourishing soups and nutritional supplements. Try to avoid filling their stomachs with water, tea, coffee and other fluids which have little nourishment. You will find ideas for many nourishing soups and drinks in our free book.

Tips to Make Meals More Nourishing

In our cookbook we have tried to enrich the recipes as much as possible. When you are preparing your own meals with your own recipes use the tips below to help make them more nourishing:

Add butter, sugar, cream or cheese when mashing or blending food or to add more moisture and calories.

Add seedless jam, marmalade without bits, or honey to porridge, breakfast cereals, milk puddings or smooth yoghurt.

Add margarine or butter, mayonnaise or soft cheese in mashed potato or on cooked vegetables.

Serve desserts with cream, custard or ice-cream.

Use full fat dairy products instead of reduced fat.

Add grated cheese to eggs, soups or pasta dishes.

Serve meals with sauces and add double cream to cooking sauces.

Consume nourishing drinks such as fruit juices, full fat milk or milk fortified with skimmed milk powder instead of water.

Avoid carbonated drinks as they make you feel fuller.

Include a high protein food (for example: meat, poultry, fish, eggs or cheese) as part of at least two of your meals daily.

Aim for 3 meals and at least 3 small snacks during the day – small frequent meals spread a few hours apart make it easier to get more calories in.

Make every mouthful count. Don’t fill up on low energy foods like water, diet drinks or plain fruits and vegetables.