Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.Learn More
During cancer or other serious illness, many children have trouble eating healthy and meeting nutrition goals. Problems with eating and nutrition can result in:
Poor nutrition can be due to several factors. Children who have problems with their mouth, stomach, or intestines are at a higher risk of not getting enough nutrients because they have trouble eating or digesting food. Changes in routine or meal restrictions during hospital stays or medical treatments can interfere with normal eating. Children may also have decreased appetite due to pain, stress, worry, and lack of physical activity.
For many children, treatment side-effects or other symptoms make it hard to meet nutrition goals. There are strategies that can help families address specific side effects and nutrition problems.
During a serious illness, eating habits can change unexpectedly. It can be easy for mealtimes to become stressful for families. These reminders can help families meet nutrition needs.
Nutritional supplements or meal replacements may be needed if your child has trouble meeting nutrition needs with food. These are usually liquid meal replacements and are available in a variety of flavors. If your child loses weight, your care team may recommend nutrition products such as Pediasure® or Ensure®. In some cases, your care team may give medicine to help improve your child’s appetite.
Talk to your child’s care team when poor eating continues for more than two or three days. Be sure to ask before using any supplements or meal replacements. Some products may not be safe or could interfere with your child’s treatments. You care team may suggest help from a nutrition professional. Read more about Clinical Nutrition and nutrition support.
Good nutrition helps pediatric patients achieve normal growth, continue to take part in daily activities, and improve overall health.
For more information on nutrition and healthy weight for families, see We Can – Nutrition Tools and Resources.
Reviewed: September 2022