CanHOPE is a non-profit cancer counselling and support service provided by Parkway Cancer Centre, Singapore.


Nutritional Tips for Weight Gain

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Diet is an important part of cancer management. Eating the right kinds of foods before, during and after treatment can help the patient feel better and stay stronger throughout the treatment. To ensure proper nutrition, a person has to eat and drink enough of foods that contain key nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fat and water.

Anorexia or the loss of appetite to eat is a common symptom in people with cancer. It is the most common cause of malnutrition in cancer patients. Cachexia is a wasting syndrome that causes weakness and a loss of weight, fat and muscle. Anorexia and cachexia often occur together. Eating fewer calories, using more calories, or a combination of both, can cause weight loss.

This handout provides some tips on how to optimise your nutrients intake to gain weight.

In order to maximise weight gain, the most important factor is to increase your total energy intake by boosting carbohydrate and protein consumption. Carbohydrates provide the energy for body and mind while protein provides the building blocks for tissue growth and repair.

Weight gain is the result of the balance between energy intake (food eaten) and energy used (active diseases, recovery processes and physical activity) on a daily basis for a period of time. Therefore, if you need to gain weight, you should aim to consume more energy from your foods everyday.

High Protein Foods Include:

  • Meat, fish and chicken
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt
  • Beans, legumes, nuts and seed
  • Meat alternatives e.g. tofu, vegetarian choices
  • Protein supplements e.g. Propass, Beneprotein

High Energy Foods Include:

  • Full cream dairy products
  • Margarine, butter, salad dressings, oil
  • Soft drinks, cordial, chocolates, sweets
  • Carbohydrate supplements e.g. Polycose
  • Nutritional supplements e.g. Boost, Resource Plus, Ensure Plus

Eating to Increase Your Weight

  • Eat regularly and snack often. It is easier for your body to handle when you have 6 smaller meals rather than 3 big meals a day, which may be too filling
  • Drink fluids เท between meals, but not with them. This helps leave more room for food
  • Drink fluids that provide energy (e.g. soy milk, milk, fruit juice, malted drink)
  • Keep your favourite foods in the cupboard or fridge
  • Keep ready to eat meals and snacks handy for times when you don't feel like preparing food (e.g. canned soups, frozen meals, noodles, biscuits)
  • Carry nutritious, compact and convenient tetrapak drinks with you (e.g. milk drink, soy milk, liquid meal supplement, fruit juice)
  • Plan your day's intake so that food is always readily available when you need it
  • Keep a record of your weight to check if these changes are working

Each Day Aim to Eat the Following:

Rice & Alternatives Rice & Alternatives Suggestions for Use
All types of rice, noodles, beehoon, various bread, cereals & cereal products, rolled oats, pasta, chapatti, idli, and other flour based products.

Aim for 5 serves or more per day.

1 serve
= 2 sl bread
= 1 cup cooked rice
= 1 cup breakfast cereal
= 1 cup cooked noodles/pasta
= 6 plain biscuits
  • Add margarine/butter to bread, pasta or rice
  • Spread cream cheese on bread or sandwiches
  • Make French toast with eggs, cream and butter
  • Try peanut butter, Nutella, cheese spread on bread, crackers and plain biscuits
  • Add sugar, honey or dried fruit to breakfast cereal
Meat & Alternatives Suggestions for Use
Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes (e.g. tofu, baked beans, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas).

Aim for 2-3 serves per day.

1 serve
= 60 – 90g meat, chicken, fish
= 2 eggs
= ½ cup cooked legumes
= 1½ taukwa
  • Fry meat, fish and chicken
  • Crumb meats before frying for added energy
  • Use gravies or sauces on meats
  • Choose meat dishes with added cream or coconut milk
  • Add ham and cheese to egg dishes
  • Try baked beans or eggs as an easy meal
Dairy & Alternatives Suggestions for Use
Milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, custard, soy milk.
Full cream dairy products contain fat so they are higher in energy.

Aim for 2 serves per day.

1 serve
= 40g cheese
= 1 tub yogurt (200g)
= 1 cup milk/soy milk (250ml)
= 3 scoops of ice cream
  • Make oats porridge, soups, desserts and drinks with milk instead of water
  • Add grated cheese to creamed soups, pasta, vegetables and sauces
  • Add ice cream, custard and yogurt to drinks, desserts and fruit
  • Add milk powder to milk
  • Make milkshakes or fruit smoothie with milk, ice cream, yogurt and honey
  • Have malted drink made with milk
Fruits Suggestions for Use
Fruit – raw, cooked, canned, stewed, mashed, pureed, dried fruit, fruit juice.

Aim for 2 serves or more per day.

1 serve
= 1 pc medium size fruit
= 2 small pc of fruits
= 1 cup canned/cooked fruit
= 1½ tablespoons dried fruit
= ½ cup fruit juice
  • Use in milkshakes/smoothie
  • Drink juice rather than water for extra energy
  • Add custard, yogurt, cream or ice cream to fruit salads
  • Use dried fruit as a snack
  • Dip in melted chocolate
Vegetables Suggestions for Use
Vegetables- raw, cooked, mashed, pureed or vegetable juice.

Aim for 3 serves or more per day.

1 serve
= ½ cup cooked vegetables
= 1 potato
= 1 cup raw vegetables (salad)
= ½ cup vegetable juice
  • Add milk powder, milk, butter/margarine and cream to mashed vegetables
  • Add margarine, sauces or grated cheese to vegetables
  • Use mayonnaise and oil or cream based dressings on salads
  • Drink vegetable juice if your appetite is too poor to eat vegetables
  • Make vegetable soup with cream, sour cream or evaporated milk
Fats & Oils Suggestions for Use
Butter, margarine, cream, oils, mayonnaise.

1 tablespoon or more per day.
  • Add cream to drinks, desserts and cereals
  • Use margarine, butter and oil when cooking
  • Add sour cream to potatoes and vegetables
  • Use cream sauces on pasta and vegetables
  • Use margarine or butter on bread, biscuits, rice and pasta