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Nutrition and Cancer: High-Calorie Snacks

Calorie and protein guidelines during cancer treatment

Your calorie and protein needs will vary depending on things, such as your age, gender, body weight, and activity level. The current recommended daily allowance for protein for most adults is 46 to 56 grams per day. It is important to discuss your own calorie and protein needs with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian. With some cancers, the metabolic processes can cause hypermetabolism. This condition affects how your body uses proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. With hypermetabolism, you may need to increase your calorie and protein intake. Discuss this with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian.

What foods are high in calories?

Listed below are some suggestions for adding calories and protein to your meals and snacks:

  • Add butter or margarine, or use oil when cooking (30 calories per teaspoon) to:

    • Puddings

    • Casseroles

    • Sandwiches

    • Vegetables

    • Cooked cereal

    • Breads, muffins, pancakes, waffles

    • Pasta

    • Meat dishes

  • Add wheat germ (25 calories and 2 grams protein per tablespoon) or ground flax seed (35 calories and 1.5 grams protein per tablespoon) to:

    • Hot cereals

    • Meat dishes

    • Cookie, brownie, pancake, muffin, or waffle batter

    • Casseroles

    • Peanut butter or other nut butter spreads

  • Add mayonnaise or salad dressing (35 calories per teaspoon) or hummus (25 calories and 1 gram protein per tablespoon) liberally to:

    • Sandwiches

    • Salads

    • As a dip for raw vegetables or sauce on cooked vegetables

  • Add evaporated milk (25 calories and 1 gram protein per tablespoon) in place of whole milk in desserts, baked goods, meat dishes, and cooked cereal. This can be added to most foods without drastically changing the flavor. 

  • Add sour cream (30 calories per tablespoon) to:

    • Potatoes

    • Casseroles and soups

    • Sauces and dips

    • Baked goods

  • Add sweetened condensed milk (60 calories and 1 gram protein per tablespoon) to:

    • Pies, puddings, and milkshakes

    • 1 to 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, and spread on toast

  • Add gravies (20 calories per tablespoon) liberally on:

    • Mashed potatoes

    • Rice

    • Noodles

    • Meats

  • Ask your healthcare provider about adding nutritional supplement drinks between meals. 

The following snack ideas can be eaten as a meal or in addition to meals.

Meal or snack idea


Calorie estimates per serving

Cheese toast

1 ounce cheese

1 slice toast


Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with milk

2 slices bread

2 tbsp peanut butter

1 tbsp jelly

8 ounces whole milk


Bagel with cream cheese, jelly, and juice

1 large bagel

1 ounce cream cheese

1 tbsp jelly

12 ounces apple juice


Cheese pizza

1 slice of cheese pizza


Egg and cheese on an English muffin

1 egg

1 ounce cheese

1 English muffin


Yogurt smoothie

8 ounces yogurt

1/2 cup half-and-half

1 cup frozen strawberries


Peanut butter and banana on toast

1 slice toast

2 tbsp peanut butter

1 banana


Chili cheese fries

1 cup French fries

3 1/2 ounces chili

2 1/2 ounces melted cheese


Nachos with beans and cheese

1 ounce tortilla chips

1/2 cup refried beans

2 1/2 ounces melted cheese

Salsa to taste


Trail mix

1 cup toasted corn cereal

12 almonds

2 tbsp peanuts

1/3 cup raisins

1/4 cup chocolate chips


Tuna salad on crackers

1/2 cup tuna salad

5 crackers


Granola bar and yogurt

8 ounces fruit-flavored yogurt

2 granola bars


Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Todd Gersten MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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