Cancer and its treatment can cause your body to use energy very quickly. When your body uses large amounts of energy, you may lose weight or have difficulty gaining weight. Your oncologist or registered dietitian may suggest that you follow a high-calorie diet to help keep you at a healthy weight.

If you are struggling with eating enough calories due to the side effects of your cancer or treatment, the following tips can help you increase your calorie intake:

  • Try consuming several small meals throughout the day, spaced 2-3 hours apart.
  • Eat more when your appetite is best.
  • Use condiments to add calories to your food, such as adding extra butter, sour cream, oils, cheese, whole milk, whipped cream, mayonnaise, salad dressing, jelly, jam, syrup, and honey.
  • Avoid drinking beverages with meals. These take up room in your stomach, making you feel full faster. Save them for in-between meals.
  • Avoid foods labelled “lite” or “diet”.

The sample menu below provides 3,000 calories a day. Check with your healthcare team or registered dietitian to see how many calories you need in a day.

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High-Calorie Sample Menu: Day 1

Meal Suggested Items Notes
Breakfast

Calories 750

1 large scrambled egg
1 medium biscuit
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. jelly
1 cup grape juice
1 cup 2% or whole milk
Biscuits, butter, whole milk, and juice are high in calories.
Morning Snack

Calories 253

1 cup celery stalks
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. raisins
For variety, try almond, hazelnut or soy nut butters.Dried fruits are high in calories.
Lunch

Calories 788

grilled chicken sandwich with
4 oz. chicken
1 leaf lettuce
1 slice tomato
1 oz. cheese
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 cup applesauce
1 oz. pretzels
Double the cheese or mayonnaise for even more calories at lunch.
Afternoon Snack

Calories 294

Orange Pineapple Smoothie*
Dinner

Calories 779

1 cup spaghetti with
3/4 cup tomato sauce and
3 oz. cooked ground beef
1 medium breadstick
1 Tbsp. butter
Large serving of spaghetti noodles and butter help to increase calories.
Bedtime Snack

Calories 144

½ cup chocolate ice cream

High-Calorie Sample Menu: Day 2

Meal Suggested Items Notes
Breakfast

Calories 721

1 cup Cheerios with
1 cup 2% or whole milk and
½ cup dried blueberries
1 English muffin with
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
Dried fruits and nuts are calorie boosters.
Morning Snack

Calories 279

6 oz. fruit yogurt
6 vanilla wafers
Use regular yogurt and skip the light or low-fat yogurt.
Lunch

Calories 702

1.5 cups Turkey Pot Pie with Cornbread Crust*
1 cup green beans with
1 Tbsp. butter and
1 oz. almonds
1 cup cranberry juice
Large servings of casseroles and combination dishes like pot pies help to add calories.Add a handful of nuts or dried fruits as dessert.
Afternoon Snack

Calories 360

High-calorie liquid nutrition supplement Look for the words “plus” or “high-calorie” on the liquid nutrition drinks.
Dinner

Calories 782

3 oz. pork loin
3/4 cup glazed carrots
3/4 cup mashed potatoes made with milk and butter
1 medium dinner roll with
2 Tbsp. butter
Stir in extra butter, whole milk, cheese, and sour cream to increase calories in mashed potatoes.
Bedtime Snack

Calories 164

1 serving Pear Crisp* Baked desserts can add calories even in small servings.

High-Calorie Sample Menu: Day 3

Meal Suggested Items Notes
Breakfast

Calories 750

2 medium waffles with
1 Tbsp. butter and
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup grapes
Large servings of butter, syrup, and waffles help to add calories.
Morning Snack

Calories 240

4 squares graham crackers
1 cup 2% milk
Swap the 2% milk with whole milk or a milkshake to add calories.
Lunch

Calories 780

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwichwith
2 slices white bread
1 cup carrot sticks with
2 Tbsp. ranch dressing
1 cup canned pears
Extra salad dressing and fruit servings help to increase calories.
Afternoon Snack

Calories 240

6 cheese crackers
Dinner

Calories 757

4 oz baked salmon
3/4 cup rice with
1 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup steamed broccoli with
1 oz. melted cheese
1 medium dinner roll with
1 Tbsp. butter
Sprinkle cheese and butter on rice and broccoli to boost calories.
Bedtime Snack

Calories 272

3 medium gingersnap cookies
1 cup 2% or whole milk

*Denotes a PearlPoint recipe