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Weight loss and other related side effects


Weight loss

Avoiding weight loss is an important goal during cancer treatment and the treatment of other diseases. You can help by encouraging your child to eat when he can and by offering desired foods often. If your child loses weight, the clinical staff may give him medicines to help improve his appetite, as well as nutritional products such as Pediasure® or Ensure®. Talk to the dietitian on your child’s treatment team if you have concerns about loss of appetite or weight loss.

Changes in taste

Chemotherapy and other medicines can change the way foods and drinks taste to your child. Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Offer chicken or fish instead of beef or pork.
  • Marinate fish, chicken, and other protein foods.
  • Add flavor with strong-tasting seasonings.
  • Try cold foods like egg salad, cheeses, and shakes.
  • Offer tart or spicy foods, such as chocolate, lasagna, spaghetti, or barbequed meats (unless mouth or throat sores are present).
  • Drink fluids with meals to rinse away bad tastes.
  • Add sauces to foods.

Other side effects related to eating

Chemotherapy and other medicines can cause other side effects. Here are some of those problems and ideas that may help your child.

Dry mouth

  • Encourage plenty of fluids.
  • Add extra butter, gravies, and sauces to foods.
  • Rinse your child’s mouth often.
  • Have your child suck on ice chips, popsicles, gum, and hard candies to help keep the mouth moist.
  • If your child does not have mouth sores, offer sweet or tart foods.

Feeling full too fast

  • Offer your child small meals more often instead of large meals only a few times a day.
  • Have your child drink liquids between meals instead of with meals. Especially avoid high-calorie liquids during meals.
  • Add extra butter, gravies, and sauces.

Cramps, heartburn, bloating

  • Encourage your child to eat slowly.
  • Offer small meals more often instead of larger ones only a few times a day.
  • Avoid gas-forming foods, such as nuts, beans, broccoli, and onions.
  • Avoid fried, greasy, and spicy foods.
  • Try bland, low fat foods.


If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s weight or ability to eat, please talk your child’s doctor, nurse or a St. Jude registered dietitian.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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