Lifespan Cancer Institute

Loss of Appetite

Cancer and some of the treatments for cancer may cause you to lose your appetite. However, you need to nourish your body to avoid malnutrition and weight loss. Try to plan ahead for times when you might lose your appetite by having foods readily available that you typically enjoy and that are easy to digest. Not eating will tire you and can harm your health.


  • Eat in a quiet, relaxed place. Dine with people you enjoy. Pleasant music or special dinnerware and table linens may make eating more appealing. Different colors, textures, and flavors may make foods more appetizing.
  • Your sense of taste may change. If a food does not taste good to you, try seasoning it with lemon or lime juice, salt, pepper, herbs, sauces, marinades, mild spices or other flavorings. You may need to season food more than usual if your sense of taste has changed.
  • Be flexible about when and what you can eat. Eat foods that appeal to you at that moment. Foods that do or do not appeal to you may change over the course of your treatment. Try to keep an open mind; be adventurous! Meals can be anything you like. You may enjoy having breakfast foods for lunch or dinner and leftovers for breakfast.
  • You may want to eat small meals throughout the day rather than eating at specific meal times. Try eating small meals 4-6 times per day.
  • Early morning is the best time to eat. Eating a large meal early in the day, however, may lead to nausea. Try eating a small meal, assess how you feel, and then eat another small meal.
  • Keep lots of easy to eat food on hand for snacks. Milkshakes, chilled canned fruit, ice bars, and breakfast drinks can be eaten slowly between meals.
  • There may be days when you eat very little or not at all. To avoid dehydration, remember to continue drinking fluids even if you are not eating. Try to eat more on the days you feel better to make up for calories missed on the days with decreased appetite.