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Meal and snack ideas

When you feel too tired or unwell to shop for food or cook, or if you’re missing meals while having treatment, the quick meal and snack ideas in this section may help.

Some may not seem like healthy choices, but if you have a poor appetite it’s important to focus on high-protein and high-kilojoule food and fluids to ensure your body gets all the energy it needs. You can return to the healthy eating guidelines when your appetite improves.

Avoid foods that might make any treatment-related side effects worse (e.g. if you have a sore throat, do not eat dry, coarse snacks or acidic foods). If you have another health condition, such as diabetes, the suggestions in this section may not be suitable.

Check with your doctor or a dietitian before changing what you eat and drink while having cancer treatment.

Where to find recipes online

From Treatment to Table is a collection of recipes for people with head and neck cancer. If you have trouble swallowing, the recipe book Beyond the Blender may help. For more details visit Head & Neck Cancer Australia.

For culturally relevant recipes for Chinese and Greek communities, visit (developed by the University of Tasmania’s Centre for Rural Health).

For healthy recipe ideas, visit

Light meals

  • baked beans on toast with grated cheese
  • crumpets or muffins toasted with cheese, and a piece of fruit
  • scrambled or poached egg on toast and a glass of orange juice
  • tuna or sardines on buttered toast with fresh tomato
  • omelette with cheese or mushrooms and buttered bread
  • toast with cheese, avocado or peanut butter, followed by sliced banana and yoghurt
  • cereal or toasted muesli with full-cream milk and yoghurt
  • porridge or rice pudding made with milk and cream
  • congee
  • pancakes or French toast with fruit and maple syrup

Nourishing drinks

These drinks are high in protein, energy, vitamins and minerals:

  • enriched milk mixed with Akta-Vite, Milo or Horlicks
  • milkshake
  • banana smoothie
  • mango lassi (see recipe below)
  • hot chocolate
  • flavoured milk
  • apricot lemon crush (see recipe below)

Apricot lemon crush recipe

  • 410 g can apricot halves in natural juice
  • 1 cup natural yoghurt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp wheatgerm
  • crushed ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Mango lassi recipe

  • 1 cup canned mango in natural juice
  • 1 heaped tbsp milk powder or powdered nutritional supplement
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ cup natural yoghurt
  • 3 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

  • fresh or frozen fish with chips and salad
  • grilled lamb cutlets, mashed potato with margarine or butter, and peas and carrots
  • pasta with a ready-made sauce, e.g. pesto or bolognaise, and cheese
  • cheesy vegetable bake (see recipe below)
  • lentil dhal with chapatis or rice
  • green or red chicken or vegetable curry with basmati rice
  • salmon, tuna or egg with store bought mayonnaise, salad and buttered bread roll
  • frozen or fresh lasagne or moussaka
  • frittata or quiche
  • salmon or tofu with soba noodles
  • occasional takeaway such as noodles, stir-fry, curry and rice, hamburgers or pizza (ensure the food is freshly cooked)
  • refrigerated leftover food from the previous day – reheat till steaming
  • microwave potato with baked beans and cheese
  • egg, tempeh and cooked vegetables with gado gado (peanut) dressing
  • wrap with falafel, hummus and salad

Cheesy vegetable bake

  • oil, for greasing dish
  • 400 g sweet potato or pumpkin*, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 parsnip and 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup thickened cream
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush a medium ovenproof dish with oil. Layer the vegetables in the prepared dish. Drizzle each layer with a small amount of cream. Top with the remaining cream and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender and top is golden brown.

* Use whatever vegetables you have

  • crackers with cheese
  • pita bread with hummus
  • buttered pikelets, scones, muffins, fruit buns, crumpets, finger buns or raisin toast
  • celery with cream cheese or peanut butter
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • dried fruit and nuts
  • jaffles, sandwiches and toast – try egg and store-bought mayonnaise, cheese, peanut butter, avocado, tinned salmon or tuna
  • milk puddings, such as creamed rice, rice pudding, custard, mousse and instant puddings
  • fruit (fresh, frozen or tinned) with custard, yoghurt, jelly, ice-cream, cream or condensed milk
  • stewed fruit with custard or cream
  • creamy soup with added cream, and buttered toast (see recipe below)
  • hot chips, chicken nuggets or fish fingers
  • instant noodles with frozen vegetables
  • potato crisps, pretzels or corn chips with dips, salsa or guacamole
  • yoghurt or ice-cream frozen sausage rolls, meat pies, samosas or spring rolls

Potato and leek soup

  • 1–2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 kg potatoes, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • ½ cup cream

Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook leeks until soft. Add cumin seeds and cook for 2 minutes. Add potatoes and stock to saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25–30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Stir in cream.

Featured resource

Nutrition for People Living with Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last updated July 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: Jacqueline Baker, Senior Oncology Dietitian, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Lauren Atkins, Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian, OnCore Nutrition, VIC; Dr Tsien Fua, Head and Neck Radiation Oncology Specialist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Clare Hughes, Manager, Nutrition Unit, Cancer Council NSW; John Spurr, Consumer; Emma Vale, Senior Dietitian, GenesisCare, SA; David Wood, Consumer.

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