best high calorie drinks for cancer patients

Best High Calorie Drinks for Cancer Patients [7 Recipes]

Many patients being treated for cancer struggle to meet nutrition needs. High calorie drinks can be an easy way for cancer patients to boost energy and nutrient intake.

As a dietitian, I understand how difficult it can be to ensure adequate intake during cancer treatment. Nevertheless, I know how critical it is to obtain necessary nutrients during this time.

High calorie drinks can help cancer patients maintain weight, get vitamins and minerals, and stay hydrated. 

This article includes seven easy homemade high calorie drink recipes specifically designed to nourish and support cancer patients.

Why do Cancer Patients Need High Calorie Drinks?

First things first, why do cancer patients need high calorie drinks? Well, the truth is, not all cancer patients do.

Some patients undergoing treatment lose their appetite or have difficulty eating. 

Therefore, during cancer treatment, it can be difficult to maintain weight. But, it is crucial to try to maintain weight. 

Losing a significant amount of weight can lead to malnutrition and worse treatment outcomes.  

Some patients have an easier time drinking versus eating due to swallowing issues and fatigue. High calorie drinks can provide cancer patients with energy when they have difficulty eating or don’t have the energy to eat a full meal.

Adequate nutrition during treatment can promote recovery, help maintain muscle, and fight infection.

Milkshakes, smoothies, and other drinks can be easy ways to obtain adequate calories and nutrients.


Malnutrition is defined as lack of proper nutrients in the body. This would likely happen due to decreased oral intake. 

Characterizations of malnutrition include: weight loss, decreased oral intake, muscle wasting, and fat wasting. 

These issues are common in cancer patients undergoing treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation, and even surgery can increase the amount of energy and protein your body needs. 

Additionally, side effects are common with cancer treatment that lead to poor intake. Such as: vomiting, nausea, diarrhea. 

Plus, tumors compete with your body for resources.

So, even when you feel like you’re eating enough, you’re possibly not. Your body requires an increased amount of calories and protein during this time. High calorie drinks are just one way for cancer patients to obtain these calorie and protein requirements.

Ok, now that we understand what malnutrition is. Why is it concerning?

Malnutrition can lead to:

  • Increased and more expensive hospital stays
  • Decreased independence
  • Poorer prognosis
  • Fatigue
  • Procedure complications
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Death

According to The Cancer Institute, malnutrition is responsible for 20% of cancer related deaths.

High calorie drinks can help patients with cancer combat unintended weight loss and malnutrition! 

Premade Drinks

There are a few high calorie premade drinks on the market. Examples include: Ensure, Boost, and Premier Protein. 

If you’re interested in purchasing premade drinks, check out my article: Top 7 Nutritional Supplement Drinks for Cancer Patients.

The 7 Best High Calorie Drinks for Cancer Patients

Below are 7 high calorie and protein packed drinks that are beneficial for cancer patients. All recipes are high calorie and nutrient dense–the perfect combo for you or your loved one’s cancer journey.

#1 Strawberries and Cream Shake

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • ½ cup whole milk Greek yogurt (plain, vanilla, or strawberry)
  • ½ cup half and half or heavy cream
  • 1 scoop vanilla or strawberry protein powder
  • 1 tbsp strawberry jam or fruit spread

#2 Chocolate Avocado Frosty

  • 1 small ripe avocado
  • 2 tbsp. chocolate protein powder
  • 1 tsp. pure honey
  • Large handful of ice
  • 1 cup heavy cream or whole milk

You can omit the ice with frozen avocado.

#3 Banana Cream Pie

  • 5oz silken tofu
  • ½ cup rolled oats, blended
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. whole milk Greek yogurt (banana or plain)
  • Optional: ½ tbsp. banana pudding mix

If you do not have a frozen banana, you can add a fresh banana plus ice cubes.

#4 Lemon Squeeze

  • 5oz silken tofu
  • 3-5 tbsp. lemon juice
  • ½ cup vanilla ice cream
  • ¼ cup of lemonade (pineapple juice also works)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. whole milk Greek yogurt

#5 Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake

  • ½ cup rolled oats, blended
  • 1 cup chocolate ice cream
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream

#6 Pina Colada

  • ¾ cup pineapple (frozen, fresh, or canned) 
  • 3 tbsp. shredded coconut
  • 1 tbsp. whole milk Greek yogurt (coconut, plain, or pineapple)
  • ½ cup canned coconut milk
  • ¼ cup coconut water
  • 1 frozen banana 
  • Splash of pineapple juice (optional)

I recommend blending the coconut first.

#7 Very Vanilla Milkshake

  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • ¼ cup vanilla whole milk Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla protein powder


For all high calorie drinks, prepare all ingredients and wash produce. Just add to a blender and blend!


If your smoothie is:

  • Too thick: add more fluid
  • Too thin: add ice or frozen fruit/veggies
  • For creamier texture: more yogurt or ice cream
  • For crystalized texture: more ice or frozen fruit

Add-ons for High Calorie Drinks

Some toppings and ingredients can be added to provide even more nutrients and calories. Utilize foods, flavors, and liquids the patient likes to create your own high calorie drink!

  • Chia Seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Protein Powder
  • Silken Tofu
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Nut Butter
  • Frozen Squash
  • Spinach
  • Riced Cauliflower
  • Chocolate/strawberry sauce
  • Jam
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Whipped Cream


High calorie drinks are a helpful way for cancer patients to prevent unintended weight loss. Drinking energy dense drinks can promote weight gain and prevent malnutrition.

Many different ingredients can be added to your high calorie drink to create a well balanced, nutrient dense beverage!

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