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Eating extra calories when you are sick - children

Alternate Names

Getting more calories - children

Self-care

If your child is sick or getting cancer treatment, he or she may not feel like eating. But your child will need to get enough protein and calories to grow and develop. Eating well will help your child handle their illness and side effects of treatment better.

Change your child's eating habits to help them get more calories:

  • Let your child eat when they are hungry, not just at mealtimes.
  • Give your child 5 or 6 small meals a day instead of 3 large ones.
  • Keep healthy snacks handy.
  • Do not let your child fill up on water or juice before or during meals.

Make eating more pleasant and fun:

  • Play music your child likes.
  • Eat with family or friends.
  • Let your child listen to the radio or watch TV when they are eating.
  • Try new recipes or new foods you think your child will like.

Ways to Add Calories to Your Child's Food

Infants and babies:

  • Feed your baby infant formula or breast milk when they are thirsty, not juices or water.
  • Feed your baby solid food when they are 4 to 6 months old. Use foods that have a lot of calories.

Toddlers and preschool children:

  • Give your child whole milk with meals, not juices, low fat milk, or water.
  • Sauté or fry food (ask your doctor first about this).
  • Add butter or margarine to foods when you are cooking, or put them on foods that are already cooked.
  • Feed your child peanut butter sandwiches, or put peanut butter on some vegetables or fruits, such as carrots and apples.
  • Mix canned soups with half-and-half or cream.
  • Use half-and-half or cream in casseroles and mashed potatoes, or on cereal.
  • Add protein supplements to yogurt, milkshakes, fruit smoothies, or pudding.
  • Offer your child eggnog (with no alcohol), milkshakes, or prepared liquid supplements between meals.
  • Add cream sauce or melt cheese over vegetables.
  • Ask your child's doctor if liquid nutrition drinks are okay to try.

References

Ottery FD. Cancer-related weight loss. In: Walsh D, Caraceni AT, Fainsinger R, et al, eds. Palliative Medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 133.

Bozzetti F, Bozzetti V. Principles and management of nutritional support in cancer.In: Walsh D, Caraceni AT, Fainsinger R, et al, eds. Palliative Medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 106.

Rock, CL, Doyle C, Demark-Wahnefried W, et al. Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012; published on line at doi: 10.3322/caac.21142.


Review Date: 6/5/2012
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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