Taking Care of Your Health

Diet Guidelines for Boosting Calories During Cancer Treatment

June 08, 2020

Peanut Butter And Apples Nut Butters (peanut, almond, cashew) are a good source of energy.

Energy = calories: During cancer treatments, the body needs extra energy to heal. Calories provide our body energy. If enough energy/calories are not provided from food, the body breaks down muscle mass to provide energy. When the body breaks down muscle it can cause weakness, slow recovery, and may cause a poor appetite — decreasing the ability to consume enough calories. The following foods provide high amounts of energy/calories even in small amounts.

 Food item   Amount   Calories   Recommendations 
Nut Butters (Peanut, Almond, Cashew)   2 tablespoons  190 calories 
  • Spread over toast, bagels, crackers
  • Mix in oatmeal/ cold cereals
  • Eat with carrots, celery, apples
  • With ice cream
  • Add to milkshakes or smoothies
Avocado  1/2 avocado  160 calories 
  • Eat alone, on sandwiches, salads, toast, soups, or eggs
  • Make guacamole dip w chips/veggies
Honey  1 tablespoon  65 calories 
  • Add to fruit desserts, milk, cereals and yogurt
  • Put on meats/poultry


Coconut milk
(in a can)

Coconut Cream
(in a can)
1/4 cup (shredded) 
1/3 cup

2 tablespoons 
115 calories   
120 calories   
95 calories 
  • Add to desserts
  • Add to make sauces, curries.
  • Mix in smoothies
  • Add to coffee
  • Add to rice dishes, soups, or hot cereals
Dried Fruit:
1/2 cup dried fruit  250 calories 
  • Add to breakfast cereals (hot/ cold)
  • Add to desserts (muffins/cookies/puddings/pies)
  • Mix with cooked squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots
  • Add to nuts/granola for a trail mix
Heavy Cream  1 tablespoon  50 calories 
  • Top soups or salad molds
  • Add on cocoa or flavored coffees
  • Add with fruit or dessert
  • Add to mashed potatoes, gravies
  • Use in cold cereals instead of milk
  • Add to smoothies
Half & Half  1 tablespoon
1 cup 
20 calories
315 calories 
  • Pour over fish and chicken when baking
  • Use in place of milk for cereal, pudding/custard, soups, sauces, casseroles, and in mashed potatoes
Sour Cream  2 tablespoons  40 calories 
  • Mix into cream soups/ chili
  • Mix in vegetables and casseroles
  • Dip for raw veggies
  • Use in sauces, salad dressings, pancakes, waffles, and potatoes
Oils (Olive, Coconut) or Butter  1 tablespoon  120 calories 
  • Add to hot foods: veggies, rice, pasta, soup, casseroles, and hot cereals
  • Mix w/ herbs for sauces/marinades
  • Make a seasoned dip for breads
  • Add to hot chocolate or smoothies
Mayonnaise  1 tablespoon  95 calories 
  • Add to salad dressings
  • Spread on sandwiches
  • (You can use an olive oil based mayonnaise as a healthier substitution)
Syrups  2 tablespoons  100 calories 
  • Chocolate/Butterscotch w/ice cream or yogurt
  • Fruit syrups for glazes on meats
  • Add to crackers for snacks
  • Put in coffees/teas
Granola  1/4 cup  130 calories 
  • Add to cookies, muffins, bread batters and pudding mixes
  • Top yogurt, ice cream
  • Mix with fruit and nuts
Ground Flaxseed  2 tablespoons  70 calories 
  • Add to casseroles, meat, bread, muffins, batters
  • Sprinkle on fruit, cooked veggies, yogurt
  • Use in place of breadcrumbs
Hemp seeds or hearts  3 tablespoons  180 calories 
  • Add to smoothies, hot cereals, sandwiches
  • Sprinkle on eggs, toast, or salads
Hummus  2 tablespoons  70 calories 
  • Spread on sandwiches/wraps, or use as dip for warm pita bread/crackers
Cream Cheese  1 tablespoon  50 calories 
  • Use in desserts, dips, and soups. Spread on sandwiches
Shredded Cheese  1/2 cup  230 calories 
  • Use in casseroles, chili, or soups, salads, eggs, or pasta

Content written by Nutrition Department. 
Produced by ERAS Program and Patient Education Department.  
Reviewed by Patient & Family Advisors.