What happens if I don’t like the food they give me in hospital?

Jeanette Hawkins, a CLIC Sargent Nurse, says:

Your hospital will try very hard to make food that you like. They know that when you are having treatment for cancer you may only fancy a few things. In some hospitals you can ask for what you want and they cook it fresh. In others you can pick foods off a list. If you don’t fancy your hospital food when it comes, ask if you can swap it for something else. Your mum, dad or carer can bring some tinned or packet foods that you like into hospital as well.

I used to love my food, but I just can’t eat. Help!

Jeanette Hawkins, a CLIC Sargent Nurse, says:

Some treatments can make you feel sick or your sense of taste may change so that even your favourite foods taste horrible! If your mouth is dry or sore, soft foods like macaroni cheese and mashed potato, or cold foods like ice cream, are good. Or how about a homemade milkshake? See what the dietitian at the hospital suggests too.

Sometimes foods I usually like taste different and sometimes they make me feel sick. What can I do?

Evelyn Ward, a dietitian, says:

It can be annoying when your illness or treatment puts you off food you normally love but your taste buds should get back to normal eventually. You could talk to your doctor, nurse or dietician to see if they can help. They may suggest you have an anti-sickness medicine. It can be better to have small snacks during the day rather than big meals. Avoid anything greasy, like fried food, or with a strong smell. Perhaps go for things like ice cream, smoothies, yoghurt, cereal, biscuits or salad.

What can I do to increase my appetite?

Evelyn Ward, a dietitian, says:

Don’t feel you have to eat food at the right time of day. Rather than having big meals, keep snacks handy in case you suddenly feel like eating and, if your appetite is better at certain times of the day, try to eat a big more then. Another trick is to go for food that smells really good, like roast chicken or fresh bread. Sometimes just the smell is enough to get your appetite going. Speak to your doctor, nurse or dietician – maybe they can recommend a medicine to give your appetite a bit of a boost.

The steroids I’m on make me very hungry. What can I do?

Jeanette Hawkins, a CLIC Sargent Lead Nurse, says:

When you are taking steroids, you can feel very hungry and like you want to eat all the time. You may be worried about putting on weight. Talk to the dietitian at your hospital and ask for some ideas about healthy and filling foods, and also some treats. Remember, this hunger won’t go on forever. Your appetite will go back to normal when the steroid treatment stops.

What can I eat to help me put on weight and is healthy?

Evelyn Ward, a dietitian, says:

Full-fat dairy foods are great because they contain lots of calories to give you energy and contain vitamins and minerals to help you stay healthy. Your parents or carer can add extra butter, margarine, cheese or oil to anything they cook, like potatoes, rice, noodles and cooked vegetables. Have full-fat milk with drinks and cereal, and puddings with a blob of cream or full-fat yoghurt. Meat and nuts are good for keeping your weight up as well. It’s still fine to eat fruit and vegetables, but try not to fill yourself up with them. The dietician at your hospital may give you special drinks and supplements to add to your food.

Is it good to eat fatty foods or bad? Sometimes when I am on treatment I am told to eat lots of fatty foods.

Evelyn Ward, a dietitian, says:

It’s really confusing when you try your best to eat healthily and suddenly you are being told to eat lots of food which seems ‘bad’ for you. For most people, it’s not a good idea to eat too many fatty foods. But if you are losing weight because of your treatment, foods high in fat give more energy and can help to put weight on. This is why you may be advised to drink full-fat milk, have full-fat yoghurts and add extra cheese to food. These foods have lots of protein and contain some vitamins and minerals to help you stay healthy. There will be a dietitian at the hospital who can help you make sure you are eating a healthy diet that gives you lots of energy. 

Last reviewed: September 2015
Next planned review: 2018