Loss of Appetite

A loss of appetite is a decreased desire to eat. If unchecked, appetite loss and the corresponding weight and muscle mass loss can cause a more serious condition called “cachexia”, or wasting away of the body.

What causes loss of appetite?

  • Some types of cancer (ovarian, pancreatic, and stomach)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Mouth sores/ulcers/dry mouth
  • Changes in taste and smell
  • Difficulty eating (chewing, swallowing)
  • Fatigue
  • Depression/stress/fear/anxiety

What happens when people lose their appetite?

  • Disinterest in food
  • Pain
  • Feeling tired/drained
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to taste and smells

What should I eat when I lose my appetite?

When losing your appetite, try to east as many extra calories as you can, foods that you enjoy, and always have ready-to-eat snacks available for quick energy.

Extra calories/protein

  • Butter
  • Skim milk
  • Add cheese to sandwiches and soups
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Honey/brown sugar

Foods with appealing aromas / favorite foods

  • Ethnic cuisine (Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Japanese)
  • Roasted chicken with lemon, garlic, onion

Dairy products

  • Milkshakes
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream

Finger foods

  • Deviled eggs
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Granola bars
  • Canned tuna/chicken
  • Pita bread and hummus

Easy to prepare foods

  • Sandwiches
  • Smoothies
  • Canned fruit and vegetables
  • Puddings
  • Cheese, bean, sour cream dips with chips/vegetables
  • Bagel and cream cheese
  • Prepackaged pizza
  • Granola and dried fruit
  • Canned spaghetti/ravioli

What else could I do when I've lost my appetite?

  • Eat high calorie/protein snacks every 1-2 hours instead of 3 large meals a day
  • Look forward ot meal time
  • Set the table nicely
  • Eat with someone
  • Play your favorite music/movies while eating
  • Be physically active
  • Eat your favorite foods whenever you want
  • Try new foods and recipes

When should I call my healthcare provider about loss of appetite?

  • If you follow the recommendations and you are still losing weight
  • If you are too tired to do things you need to care for youself (eating, bathing, using the restroom)
  • If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others