Eating to Maintain or Gain Weight After Treatment


While many people gain weight during and after treatment for breast cancer, others lose weight. After surgery, many people find that they lose a few pounds. Side effects from chemotherapy such as vomiting or diarrhea also may cause you to lose weight. Weight loss can cause fatigue and can extend the time it takes for you to recover from treatment. Losing weight can also weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections.

Assess your weight and then talk to your doctor about an ideal weight for you. Once you have set a goal, you may want to talk to a registered dietitian and develop a customized eating plan.

Some general guidelines for maintaining your body weight:

  • Try to eat small meals or snacks every 1 or 2 hours. Keep high-protein foods nearby, such as string cheese, unsalted nuts, crackers with peanut or almond butter, hard-boiled eggs, energy bars, or individual packages of pudding or custard.
  • Try eating foods high in protein. During breast cancer treatment, some women develop a dislike for fats. If this happens to you, try eating foods high in protein but low in fat such as yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, lean meat or fish, and lentils.
  • Eat nutrient-dense, starchy fruits and vegetables. Try dried fruits, 100% fruit or vegetable juice, or fruits and vegetables such as corn, peas, bananas, cherries, mangoes, lima beans, and sweet potatoes.

Eating to regain weight after treatment

If you're trying to regain weight, it's important to make sure you're getting enough protein. The amount will be different for different people. Together, you and your registered dietitian can come up with an eating plan that works for you.

Try some of these ideas to get more protein and starchy fruits and vegetables each day:

  • Use milk in some recipes in place of water.
  • Add dried fruits to muffins, cookies, breads, cakes, pancakes, cereal, pies, and rice.
  • Add chopped hard-boiled eggs to salads, sandwiches, and casseroles.
  • Cook several sweet potatoes at once and then reheat them later for a quick snack.

How to get more protein in your diet

Protein helps heal and rebuild tissues. During treatment, a good general guideline is to eat half a gram of protein for each pound you weigh. So if you weigh 160 pounds, try to get 80 grams of protein in your diet each day. Good sources of protein include lean meat, fish, poultry and dairy products, nuts, dried beans, peas and lentils, and soy.

To get more protein each day, try some of these tips:

  • Add cheese to sandwiches, fish, vegetables, soups, casseroles, pasta, rice, and noodles.
  • Add lean meat, fish, or tofu to pasta sauce, casseroles, chili, soups, and sauces. Stir-fry it with vegetables for a quick and delicious meal.
  • Use milk instead of water in cooking when possible.
  • Eat hard-boiled eggs. Keep them in the refrigerator as a snack. Add chopped hard-boiled eggs to salads and sandwiches. 
  • Add nuts, seeds, or wheat germ to casseroles, breads, cookies, cakes, muffins, pancakes, and cereal. Sprinkle it on ice cream and fruit.
  • Add several kinds of beans to pasta sauce and chili.
  • Add peanut or almond butter to sandwiches, toast, crackers, muffins, and fruit slices. Use it as a dip for raw veggies.
  • Use yogurt as a dip for fruit and veggie slices or cookies.
  • Add frozen yogurt, ice cream or heavy whipping cream to your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
  • Mix cottage cheese with salsa and chopped avocadoes to make a tasty dip.

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