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Nutrition and Cancer: High-Protein Foods

Calorie and protein guidelines during cancer treatment

Each individual’s calorie and protein needs will vary depending on a number of factors, such as age, gender, body weight, and activity level. The current recommended daily allowance for protein for most adults is 46 to 56 grams per day. People with cancer may need more. It is important to discuss your individual calorie and protein needs with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian. With some cancers, the metabolic processes can cause a situation known as hypermetabolism. This affects how the 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 protein?

Some people on chemotherapy may not tolerate some of the foods below or may not find them appealing. Choose the foods that you like. Foods that are high in protein include:

  • Meats, such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, and fish

  • Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese

  • Eggs

  • Nuts and nut butters

  • Dried beans and peas

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

  • Add powdered milk (33 calories and 3 grams protein per tablespoon):

    • To foods and beverages

    • To puddings, potatoes, soups, ground meats, vegetables, cooked cereal, milkshakes, yogurt, and pancake batter

  • Add eggs or egg substitute (80 calories and 6 grams protein per egg):

    • To casseroles, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, cooked cereal, macaroni and cheese, and chicken or tuna salads

    • To French toast and pancake batter (add more eggs than you normally would)

  • Use cheese (100 calories and 7 grams protein per ounce), as tolerated:

    • As snacks or on sandwiches

    • With casseroles, potatoes, vegetables, and soups

  • Use whole milk (150 calories and 8 grams protein per cup) in cooking and food preparation, as tolerated.

  • Use peanut butter (95 calories and 4 grams protein per tablespoon) on toast, bagels, crackers, bananas, apples, and celery.

  • Add a powdered or liquid instant breakfast (130 calories and 7 grams protein per packet) to milkshakes or milk.

  • Add nonfat dry milk to whole milk to prepare high-protein milk.

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