Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

High-Protein / High-Calorie Diet

Nutrition and Cancer for Children: High-Protein/High-Calorie Diet

Nutrition tip

Children younger than 3 years of age should avoid chunky peanut butter and cut-up hotdogs due to the risk of choking. Children under two years of age should not have peanut butter at all because of the risk of choking; however, if they really want it, the peanut butter can be mixed with applesauce. The color will not be too attractive, but the risk of choking will be reduced. If more than one serving is mixed at a time, the mixture must be refrigerated; otherwise, it will quickly mold due to the high moisture content of the applesauce.

The importance of good nutrition

Receiving adequate nutrition is important for all children to help them grow and stay healthy. However, consuming sufficient calories and protein is even more important for children with cancer since the disease typically increases their nutritional needs. But since every child is unique and tolerates treatment differently, the child's health care team will individualize the nutrition plan. A dietitian can determine your child’s specific calorie and protein needs.
Children with cancer need proper nutrition to:

Following a high-protein and high-calorie diet

The treatment of cancer can be difficult for individuals of any age. It is important that children with cancer receive supportive care from the entire health care team, such as doctors, dietitians, and child life therapists, to make the nutritional aspects of treatment less difficult. Suggestions such as creating a child-centered environment, making tasty high-calorie snacks, and offering alternatives to oral nutrition are all part of supportive care. If your child is having trouble eating enough calories and protein, your child’s doctor or dietitian may suggest serving a high-calorie and high-protein diet. This will ensure that each bite has the highest nutritional value possible.

Foods high in protein include:

Puddings and yogurts packed for children typically contain high amounts of protein and are often appealing to your child. Dried beans and peas are also high in protein, but because they cause gas may not be the best food choice for your child.

Listed below are foods you can use to add calories and protein to your child’s meals and snacks:


Add raw eggs and egg substitutes only to dishes that will be cooked. Do not use raw eggs or egg substitutes in uncooked dishes for children, especially those whose immune systems have been compromised.

Egg Beaters add 25 calories and 5 grams protein per 1/4 cup. Do not use raw eggs or egg substitutes in uncooked items.

Wheat germ is fiber. It is okay as long as the child is not having stomach or bowel problems. It should only be taken orally, not in a tube feeding.

Nutrition tip

Three ounces of thickened baby meat is an ample meat serving. Place thickened baby meat on top of mashed potatoes and stick broccoli flowerets in the potatoes. Call it “a river on a mountain of mashed potatoes with broccoli trees.”

Calcium for children with lactose intolerance

If your child’s doctor tells you that your child has lactose intolerance, you will want to be sure your child’s calcium needs are met from products besides milk. Some other ways to include calcium in your child’s diet include:

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Online Resources of Cancer Center


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