Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite, also called anorexia, is one of the most common symptoms during cancer treatment. It can appear at any time during treatment or during the disease. It is important to pay special attention if it is prolonged over time because it can affect the patient’s nutritional status. In lung cancer, shortness of breath can lead to more tiredness when eating.


Take advantage of the time of day when appetite is at its highest to include the most energetic and nutritious foods.

Even if you have no appetite, it is important to think about the importance of eating. It is not so important how much you eat in one meal, but what you manage to accumulate at the end of the day, and for this, it is important to set small goals that you can achieve throughout the day.

Always ensure the presence in both lunch and dinner of vegetables (raw or cooked), starchy foods (tubers, cereals, pulses) and protein foods (meat, fish and eggs or other protein-rich foods such as soy), as indicated in the plate method. Even if it is in small quantities, using a small dessert plate.

Nutritionally dense elaborations are those that include a large amount of energy and nutrients in a very small volume.

  • You can prepare chicken or cod croquettes; empanadas (meat, tuna, egg, cheese, etc.), which can be frozen and fried or warmed up; nutritious pâtés to spread on toast or sandwiches; energy purées and soups, which can be kept in the fridge and consumed directly (hot or cold), and finally, sweet preparations, as a dessert or to snack on in between meals, such as caramel puddings, Greek-type yoghurts, and many others.
  • Dishes can also be enriched to increase their nutritional density with high-energy and/or protein-rich foods:
    • Soups and purées: add grated cheese, powdered milk, hard-boiled egg, diced serrano ham, chicken, or fish.
    • Salads, pasta, rice, vegetables, and other dishes: enrich them with cheese, mayonnaise, tuna, egg whites, fresh fruit, diced Serrano ham, etc.
    • Milk: powdered milk, cocoa, honey.
    • Yoghurt: add fresh fruit, syrup or compote fruit, dried fruit, honey, breakfast cereals, and jam.

  • Prepare complete smoothies with fresh fruit, dairy or plant milk, nuts, dried fruit, biscuits…

Accessible for snacking; food left in the field of vision may be consumed more frequently: grapes, bananas, tangerines, cherries, strawberries, a bowl of popcorn or a bag of breadsticks (white, wholemeal or with seeds), some biscuits, dried fruit (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, cashews…) or dried fruit (dried apricots, prunes, sultanas, banana, coconut). Also, keep Greek or protein-rich yoghurts in the fridge.

It is advisable to always drink in between meals and to drink more nutritious liquids, such as fruit juices or fruit and vegetable smoothies.

Serving food on a large plate can give the feeling that there is less food, which can help make it easier to eat.
Keep in mind the appearance and presentation of meals and including a variety of colours, textures and smells will also help to improve acceptance.

Make sure that food does not give off strong odours or flavours.

Keeping active can help stimulate appetite.

Maintaining good oral hygiene to avoid undesirable flavours that may later be associated with certain foods.