Appetite Changes

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You and your doctor can't predict exactly how your treatment will affect your appetite. You may continue to enjoy cooking and eating and have a normal appetite. Or you might have days when you don't feel like eating anything, days when you want to eat everything, and times when only some things taste good. Your sense of smell and sense of taste may change. It's best to have a flexible, healthy eating plan to help you deal with your body's changing needs and wants.

Appetite changes can be caused by all breast cancer treatments:

As you move through your treatment, listen to your body and give it what it needs. If you continue to have problems eating, make sure your doctor and registered dietitian know. Not getting enough fluids, protein, and calories can contribute to feelings of tiredness or fatigue, which is one of the most frequent side effects of breast cancer treatment.

Managing appetite loss

  • Try new foods. If you start to dislike your favorite foods, try foods that are different from what you normally eat. Be sure to try new foods when you're feeling good so you don't develop more food dislikes.
  • Eat lightly and several hours before you receive a treatment. This helps prevent food aversions caused by nausea or vomiting after chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or radiation.
  • Ask another person to cook for you, or rely on prepared foods from a store if you can't stand cooking smells. You can also order take-out.
  • Try eating cold foods such as yogurt, cottage cheese, or a sandwich because there will be fewer smells.
  • Try eating with plastic utensils if your food tastes like metal.
  • Rinse your mouth with tea, ginger ale, salted water, or baking soda dissolved in water before you eat to help clear your taste buds. Some people say that sucking on ice chips in between bites of food helps numb their taste buds so they can eat.
  • Don't force yourself to eat foods that taste bad to you. Find substitutes that you can tolerate.
  • Eat small, frequent meals. It may be easier to eat more that way.
  • Keep snacks close at hand so you can eat when you feel like it. Cheese and crackers, muffins, peanut better, and fruit work well.
  • Don't wait until you feel hungry to eat. If you have no appetite, think of eating as a necessary part of your treatment. Try to eat at least a little something at regularly scheduled times during the day.
  • Consider a liquid protein supplement if you're having trouble getting enough protein. Commercial products are available. Ask your doctor or registered dietitian for product recommendations and other eating tips.

Managing increased appetite

  • Make healthy food choices. Eat lots of fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains. You'll feel full longer and be less tempted by high-calorie, low-nutrient junk food.
  • Drink water or low-calorie drinks if you're hungry between meals, or eat sugarless candy or fruit. Avoid lemonade, sweetened ice tea, and juices.
  • Keep low-calorie snacks on hand, such as:
    • carrot and celery sticks
    • bite-sized pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, or other vegetables
    • low-fat cottage cheese
    • apple slices
    • raisins
    • orange sections
    • rice cakes
    • low-fat frozen treats
    • pretzels
    • air-popped popcorn
    • sugarless hard candy
    • flavored decaffeinated coffee
    • fruit tea or herbal tea
    • water flavored with lemon or lime
    • broth or bouillon
    • low-fat gelatin

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