Help fund vital cancer research

Make a tax-deductible donation before 30 June


Recipes & snacks

The following quick meal and snack suggestions are for when you feel too tired or unwell to shop for food or cook. They may also help if you’re missing meals while having treatment or waiting for appointments. Some may not seem like healthy choices, but if you have a poor appetite it’s important to focus on high-protein and high-energy foods and fluids.

Sample meal and snack ideas

  • baked beans on toast with grated cheese
  • crumpets or muffins toasted with cheese, and fruit
  • scrambled or poached egg on toast and a glass of orange juice
  • tuna or sardines on buttered toast with fresh tomato
  • a ham and cheese omelette with buttered bread
  • toast with cheese, avocado or peanut butter, followed by sliced banana and yoghurt
  • toasted muesli with full-fat milk and yoghurt
Main meals
  • fish (bought freshly prepared) or frozen fish with chips and salad
  • grilled lamb cutlets, mashed potato with margarine or butter, and peas and carrots
  • pasta with cheese and a ready-made sauce, e.g. pesto or bolognaise
  • dhal with chapatis or rice
  • salmon, tuna or egg with salad and mayonnaise, served with a buttered bread roll
  • lasagne or moussaka
  • frittata or quiche
  • occasional takeaway food such as Thai, hamburgers or pizza (ensure the food is fresh and hasn’t been kept at a warm temperature for a long time)
  • refrigerated leftover foods from the previous day – reheat till steaming
  • cheese or hummus and crackers
  • buttered pikelets, scones, muffins, fruit buns, finger buns and raisin toast
  • celery with cream cheese or peanut butter
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • dried fruit and nuts
  • jaffles and sandwiches – try fillings such as peanut butter, cheese, avocado, egg and mayonnaise, cold meats, salmon and tuna
  • milk puddings, such as creamed rice, custard, mousse and instant puddings
  • fresh or tinned fruit with custard, yoghurt, jelly, ice-cream or cream
  • creamy soup made with milk, served with buttered toast
  • hot chips
  • instant noodles
  • potato crisps, pretzels or corn chips with dips
  • yoghurt or ice-cream
Drinks (see nourishing drinks)
  • enriched milk mixed with Akta-vite, Milo or Horlicks
  • milkshake
  • banana smoothie
  • hot chocolate
  • flavoured milk
  • apricot lemon crush

Simple meals

These meal suggestions are simple to prepare, and some can be frozen. Most of these suggestions are suitable for a soft diet or can be minced or pureed, if needed.

Stewed fruit with custard or cream
  • 3–4 pieces seasonal fruit (e.g. pear, apple, plum), peeled, cored, chopped
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup full-cream custard or ice-cream (or 2 tbsp cream)

Place fruit and orange juice in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook for about 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally until fruit softens (the total time will depend on the hardness of the fruit).

Serve with some full-cream custard, ice-cream or cream.

Scrambled eggs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30 mL cream
  • 1 tsp chives or other herbs (fresh)
  • 2 slices bread, toasted butter

Crack eggs into a bowl and add cream and chives. Whisk with a fork until combined. Heat a pan over medium heat and add a small amount of butter. Cook the eggs for 1 minute, stirring slowly so that they cook through.

Serve with buttered toast.

Swedish meatballs
  • 500 g beef mince
  • 1⁄2 cup plain breadcrumbs 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • salt and pepper, to taste 1 tbsp margarine
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 11⁄2 cups water

Combine mince, breadcrumbs, egg and seasoning in a bowl. Mix well with a fork and form into golf-sized balls. Heat the margarine in a frying pan and cook meatballs until brown. Remove meatballs from pan.

Combine the pan juices, flour and water and cook on a low heat until a thick gravy forms. Add the meatballs to the gravy and simmer for 1–11⁄2 hours.

Cheesy vegetable bake
  • oil, for greasing dish
  • 400 g sweet potato and pumpkin, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 parsnip and 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1⁄2 cup thickened cream
  • 1⁄2 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.

Nourishing drinks

Nourishing drinks are high in protein, energy, vitamins and minerals. They include ready-to-drink commercial supplements, as well as these nourishing drinks that you can make at home.

Enriched milk
  • 1 L full-cream milk
  • 4 or more tbsp milk powder (increases nutrients)

Thoroughly mix ingredients in a jug until powder is dissolved.

Use this enriched milk in tea and coffee, cereal, soups, sauces, milkshakes and smoothies.

Apricot lemon crush
  • 425 g can apricot halves in natural fruit 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.

  • 1 cup milk or milk alternative
  • 1 heaped tbsp milk powder or recommended quantity of Sustagen Hospital Formula, Ensure Powder, Fortisip Powder, Enprocal or Proform (refer to instructions on packaging or follow the advice of your dietitian)
  • 1 scoop ice-cream
  • flavouring, e.g. chocolate, strawberry, coffee, vanilla

Place all ingredients in a blender or milkshake maker and blend until smooth.

Serve chilled.

Banana smoothie
  • 1 cup milk or milk alternative
  • 1 heaped tbsp milk powder or recommended quantity of Sustagen Hospital Formula, Ensure Powder, Fortisip Powder, Enprocal or Proform (refer to instructions on packaging or follow the advice of your dietitian)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 scoop ice-cream
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Use whatever fruit you have – fresh, frozen or tinned.


Soup can be easy to digest and nourishing.

  • Try clear soups to stimulate the appetite and provide extra fluid. However, as they are low in protein and energy, don’t have them too often.
  • Add energy and/or protein to soups with meat, chicken, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans), cereals (rice, pasta, barley), cheese, cream, butter, margarine and oil.
  • Vary the taste with nutmeg, ground cumin or curry powder.
  • Puree or blend if you have difficulty swallowing.
  • Thicken with pureed vegetables, cream, eggs or enriched milk.
Foundation broth
  • 250 g meat (any cut)
  • 600 mL water
  • 30 g cereal (e.g. sago, rice or pearl barley), washed
  • 1 stalk celery, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

Remove the fat from the meat and cut into small pieces. Soak meat and bones in cold water for 30 minutes, then bring slowly to the boil. Add cereal once soup is boiling. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add vegetables to soup and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove bones, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Creamy potato and leek soup
  • 1–2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1⁄2 cup cream

Cook leek in a large saucepan with oil until soft. Add cumin seeds and cook for 2 minutes. Add potato and stock to the pan and bring to the boil.

Simmer for 25–30 minutes until potatoes are tender. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Stir in cream and serve.

Vegetable soup
  • 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 cups diced vegetables (use potatoes, carrots, etc.)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste 400 g can butter beans 1⁄2 cup milk
  • 1⁄2 cup cream
  • 1⁄2 cup rice

Heat oil and fry vegetables for 5 minutes. Add flour and stir. Add crumbled stock cubes, water, tomato paste and butter beans. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Blend the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return soup to saucepan and add milk, cream and rice. Simmer for 15–20 minutes until rice is cooked.



Marinating helps to tenderise, add flavour or change the taste of meat or tofu. The following marinades are enough for four serves of beef, pork, lamb, chicken or tofu.

  • For best results, marinate the meat or tofu in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Drain the marinades before cooking to prevent stewing and splattering.
  • When using a marinade that contains honey or sugar, cook the meat on a lower heat than usual to stop the marinade charring.
Asian marinade
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sherry
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp garlic
Red wine marinade
  • 1⁄4 cup red wine
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Honey mint marinade
  • 1⁄2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1⁄2–1 tsp minced chilli
  • 1 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp honey

Expert content reviewers:

Download PDF Order FREE booklet  

Talking bubbles icon

Questions about cancer?

Call or email our experienced cancer nurses for information and support.

Contact a cancer nurse