You’ll not hear many people complaining about losing their appetite at Christmas!

But for the estimated 2.5 million people in the UK who are currently living with cancer, the festive season of feasting and drinking can present a major challenge.   Many cancer patients lose their appetite as a result of cancer treatment leading to weight loss which in turn slows recovery and can delay treatment.

When a cancer patient is clearly unable to share in and enjoy the festive season they, and their loved ones, can also experience complex feelings of awkwardness and isolation.

A timely video from Royal Surrey Hospital– produced with the assistance of Macmillan Cancer Support – could be just the ticket for helping cancer patients and their families to eat, drink and be merry together over the Christmas season.

What do to if you lose your appetite during cancer treatment’ is a short, easy to follow film packed full of handy tips on how to beat the loss of appetite blues and give those tired taste buds a treat.

Top tips include:

  • Boosting high calorie foods in your diet to counter weight loss
  • Reducing portion sizes to manageable levels then snacking throughout the day
  • Adding extras to meals to enrich your food
  • Making the most of nourishing milkshakes

“Basically, what we are saying is a little bit of what you fancy really does do you good!,’ says Lindsey Allan, who works as part of a team of 13 Macmillan Oncology Dieticians at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford.  ‘When you’re having cancer treatment you’ve got to make sure that your food intake is maintained.

‘You need to develop special strategies to keep up your calorie and protein intake.  Three square meals a day often don’t work when you’ve lost your appetite and there’s nothing more depressing than leaving a half-finished plate of food behind. Instead, you need to be thinking about eating a little and often.

‘This really is a time to be saying ‘yes’ to that extra portion of Christmas pudding.  You could also have a snack of eggs or beans on toast, or even pudding and custard as your main meal if that’s what you find easier to eat..’

The video, which is supported by a range of more detailed nutritional advice, is part of a wider NHS focus on the holistic welfare of cancer patients in alliance with Macmillan Cancer Support.

‘It’s a year-round message about looking after yourself when you are living with cancer,’ says Lindsey. ‘But with Christmas coming up we’d like to think that the tips and advice in the video could make a positive difference to cancer patients and their families.’

©2019 Royal Surrey County Hospital

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