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Healthy Weight Center

Cancer and Weight Gain



My husband had esophageal cancer and has lost 80 pounds and cannot gain any weight back. This weight loss has decreased his energy level and caused him to have very low self esteem. His doctor has no real answers that have worked. Do you have any suggestions?


First, I would suggest that you and your husband see a registered dietitian (RD) for a personal consultation. The RD can tailor a diet specifically for him, any special medical conditions, as well as his nutritional needs. To find an RD in your area, visit www.eatright.org.

In the meantime, some ideas that may help him increase calories and gain some weight back include:

1. Try not to overwhelm him with too much food at one time. It often helps to divide food into small meals and snacks throughout the day (6 or more times per day)

2. Make small increases to his usual food portions, focusing on nutritious foods first.

3. Increase the serving size of milk and milk products. Use whole or 2% milk rather than 1% or skim (for more calories). Drink 3 or more cups of milk daily or try cheeses, yogurt, custard, pudding, ice cream, soy milk, and cream. Fruit smoothies and milkshakes (made with added mashed bananas, fruit, chocolate sauce, peanut butter and/or ice cream) are also good. So is Instant Breakfast or any canned nutritional supplements (Boost, Boost Plus, Ensure, Ensure Plus) in between meals. If 8 ounces fills him up too much, try 2 - 4 ounce portions divided throughout the day (sipping slowly).

4. In cooking, add heavy cream, evaporated or whole milk instead of water when preparing soups, hot chocolate, cooked cereals, or puddings. Add extra margarine, sour cream, salad dressings, cheese, gravies, and sauces whenever possible.

5. Snack on peanut butter, cheese, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, and gelatin made with ginger ale in place of half of the water with fruit added.

6. Serve fruits canned in heavy syrup, sweetened cereals, or cinnamon toast made with butter or margarine, cinnamon and sugar, also toast with jelly or honey.

I hope that this is helpful to you and wish you all the best.

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Response by:

Jane   Korsberg, MS, RD, LD Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD
Senior Instructor of Nutrition
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University