Top tips for eating well in self-isolation

Maintaining your weight and nutritional status through cancer treatment can be difficult along with social isolation can make it that bit harder. Our expert Dietitians have put together some tips for you to help keep your diet as balanced as possible.

General top tips for getting the best from the food you buy 

Cupboard essentials:

Wholemeal pasta
Basmati or Brown rice
Tinned pulses
Tinned fish
Rice cakes
Oars and oat cakes
Stock cubes
Tinned tomatoes

Freezer essentials:

Bread/Pitta bread/Bagel
Frozen fruit
Frozen vegetables
Salmon/Trout fillets
Chicken breasts

The BBC website contains some great ideas and recipes for maintaining your diet with ‘store cupboard’ meals:

BBC Article – What you need in your store cupboard

BBC Article – Vegan Dinners

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for good bone health, immune function and more recently insufficiency has been linked to other health outcomes including increased risk of some cancers.

Dietary sources including: oily fish, eggs and fortified milk and breakfast cereals. Most of our vitamin D is produced from sunlight exposure. However, in the UK, we can only produce vitamin D from sunlight between the months of April to September between 11am until 3pm. To make things even more difficult, the older we get the less vitamin D we produce naturally in our skin. It is not surprising, therefore, that around 50% of the UK adult population have vitamin D insufficiency.

Because of the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the UK, we often recommend that people who are undergoing chemotherapy have their levels measured. People most at risk of Vitamin D deficiency include those who are house-bound, have dark skin or are over 65 years old.

We would recommend that everyone takes a 1000iu (25mg) daily Vitamin D supplement during periods of isolation. 

These are some high quality over the counter supplements:

Maintaining your mood 

When you do not eat enough nutrient rich foods, your body may lack vital vitamins and minerals. This can affect your energy, brain function and mood. The table below shows the nutrients that can affect your mood, and how to replenish them.


Missing vitamin or mineral


Effect on mood


Food sources and tips

Iron Feeling weak, tired and lethargic Red meat, poultry and fish. Beans, pulses and fortified breakfast cereals.

Avoid drinking tea with these foods, and include a source of vitamin C (e.g. orange juice, tomatoes) to improve the absorption

B Vitamins Feeling of tiredness, low mood or irritable Wholegrain cereals, animal protein (meat/fish), eggs and dairy
Folate Feeling low in mood Liver, green vegetables, oranges, beans and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and yeast extract (Marmite)
Selenium May increase the incidence of depression and other negative mood states. It can also reduce your immune function. Brazil nuts (three a day), meat, fish, seeds and wholemeal bread

Self-isolation can have a huge impact on our mood because of the reduction in social contact that we get with others, here are a few tips to keep yourself occupied and improving your mood:

Minimising weight loss & maintaining your appetite 

Useful links

High Protein, Low Glycaemic Index Nutritious Snack Ideas

Some common snacks such as crisps, biscuits or popcorn, although delicious, satisfy our cravings but don’t provide a great deal of good nutrition. Below are some suggestions of equally delicious snacks which will keep you feeling full and will provide a hit of essential vitamins and minerals at the same time.

100kcal +

  • A handful of mixed seeds – try roasting with paprika and olive oil.
  • 1 apple sliced topped with almond/cashew nut butter
  • Handful of fresh fruit or palm full of dried fruit with ~10 almonds
  • Hummus with vegetable crudités, oatcakes or bread sticks
  • Full fat natural or Greek yoghurt with berries or dried fruit & nuts
  • A glass of milk/milk alternatives e.g. almond milk, hazelnut milk
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 handfuls of edamame beans
  • High protein cereal bars e.g. 9-Bar, Eat Natural, Nakd Bars, Bounce Bars
  • 2 squares of dark chocolate with 2-3 Brazil nuts.
  • Handful of olives / sundried tomatoes
  • Oat & Almond Balls – see recipe below
  • Glass of full cream milk

200kcal +

  • A handful of mixed nuts with a piece of fresh fruit.
  • 2 Oat cakes / ½ slice of rye bread topped with almond/cashew nut butter.
  • Cheese and 2 crackers (1 portion of cheese = 30g)
  • 2 falafel
  • ½ an avocado with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Miniature party style snacks (e.g. canapés, stuffed peppers, olives, halloumi)
  • Scotch pancakes/blinis with a variety of toppings (e.g. smoked salmon & cream cheese, avocado & sun dried tomatoes, crème fraiche with fruit jam or fruit compote)
  • Fortified breakfast cereal with full cream milk

300kcal +

  • 1 slice of Rye Bread / Whole-wheat toast with ½ mashed avocado and sliced tomatoes.
  • Dips (e.g. guacamole/taramasalata/salsa/butterbean / roasted pepper) and vegetable sticks, crisps, potato skins, pitta bread, bread sticks
  • Full fat yoghurt/coconut yoghurt with banana.
  • Oily fish e.g. smoked salmon, mackerel pate etc. on whole-wheat crackers or toast
  • Individual desserts (e.g. rice pudding, chocolate/jam sponge, trifle, cheesecake)
  • Stewed fruit with custard / ice-cream / clotted cream

Seed & Berry Bircher Muesli (Serves 4)

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  • 160g Jumbo Oats
  • 1 Apple
  • 100g Blueberries
  • 3 Fresh Strawberries
  • 60g Dried Cranberries
  • 40g Pumpkin Seeds
  • 300g 0% Fat Greek Yoghurt
  • 160mls 100% Pure Apple juice

Soak the oats in apple juice overnight with crushed blueberries and half of the cranberries. In the morning add grated apple and the remaining cranberries, mix well. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and strawberries. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt.

If you really haven’t got the time to make this muesli, then outlets such as Pret-a- Manger and Eat have started selling their own pre-made versions.

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Oats, honey and almond recovery bites (Makes 10-12)

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 These are an excellent snack for after exercise as the oats and honey replace glycogen stores whilst the nut butter provides much needed protein to support muscle repair.

1 ½ cups oats
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3tbsp creamed coconut
3tbsp honey
1/3 cup almond/peanut butter
1tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup dark choc chips

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl before rolling into small balls.
Pop them on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper.
Chill for at least 2hrs before serving.

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Food Fortification

It is crucial during treatment that you are able to minimise weight loss to help cope with the side-effects you may be experiencing. Below are some suggestions to help you increase your nutritional intake alongside maintaining the quality of foods that you are eating.

Focus on food first, instead of 3 large meals, try 6-7 smaller snack sized meals. Fortifying your meals with energy dense extras is a great way to increase the nutritional content without increasing the size of the meal itself.

Food Calories Tips for using
Avocado 1/2 medium avocado= 85kcal + 1.5g protein Mash on toast

Add to smoothies

Use as guacamole dip with vegetable sticks/pitta bread

Olive Oil 1 Tbsp = 120kcal Add to salads, vegetables, jacket potato, dip with bread
Nut Butters 1tbsp peanut butter= 95kcal +3.5g protein


Use as a dip with apple/celery sticks

Spread on rice/oat cakes

Add to milkshakes/smoothies

Nuts and Seeds 10 Almonds= 70kcal + 3g protein

1tbsp Pumpkin Seeds= 56kcal +3g protein

Add to full fat strained Greek yoghurt, Skyr, porridge, cereal

A handful of nuts/dried fruit as a snack

Hummus 3 Tbsp = 160kcal + 4g protein Spread on crackers or use as a dip with vegetable sticks/ crisps
Coconut Oil 1 Tbsp = 117kcal Use in cooking as alternative to oils/butter. Add to smoothies or have on its own.
Coconut milk ½ cup = 276kcal + 2.5g protein Add to smoothies, use in hot drinks
Cheese 30g Cheddar = 125kcal, 7.5g protein

½ cup ricotta= 210kcal, 10g protein

Add full fat cheese to mashed potato, soup, omelettes

Add ricotta to vegetable/pasta dishes, spread on crackers.

Double Cream 2 Tbsp = 140kcal Add to soups, porridge, pasta sauces, risotto, milkshakes, smoothies
Whole Milk 100ml whole milk= 67kcal +3.2g protein Use to make porridge instead of water or when making coffee
Dried Milk powder 1 Tbsp = 30kcal + 3.3g protein Add to whole milk (see recipe overleaf), scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, porridge, milkshakes
Sweetened condensed milk 1 Tbsp= 64kcal, 1.5g protein Add to hot drinks, drizzle over fruit, add to smoothies
Honey 1tsp honey = 50kcal Add to porridge, cereal, smoothies, spread on toast
Maple Syrup 1 Tbsp= 56kcal Pour in pancakes, pikelets, crumpets. Add to smoothies, milkshakes
Oily fish 50g Tinned tuna= 58kcal+ 13g protein Mackerel pate on crackers

Tinned tuna/salmon on toast or jacket potato

Fortified Milk Recipe

To ‘fortify’ means adding more nutritional value to a portion of food by increasing the energy, protein, vitamin and mineral content.

1 pint of full cream milk
4-heaped tablespoons of skimmed milk powder e.g. Marvel from the supermarket


1 pint fortified milk = 600kcal & 40g protein

Fortified Milk can be used in exactly the same way as normal milk e.g. on its own or in drinks, on cereal, in custards, puddings, sauces and milkshakes

Top Tip: A cup of tea/coffee made with 100mls of fortified milk plus one digestive biscuit will provide up to 200kcal. If you are losing weight, try having small snacks like this between meals.


High energy, nutritious drinks

To increase the calorie content further, experiment with these recipes by adding ingredients such as oats, nut butters (e.g. peanut/almond/cashew), cream, soy cream, oat cream, coconut milk or ice cream.

Banana Shake
Blend 1 banana, 100ml full-fat milk, 1 scoop of vanilla ice-cream (or coconut yoghurt) and a 1tbsp of skimmed milk powder / whey protein powder

Blueberry Avocado Smoothie
Blend a handful of blueberries, 1 small avocado, 1 banana and some ice.

Almond Shake
Blend 2 heaped tablespoons of almond butter with 1 frozen banana and 100ml of full fat milk and 1tbsp of skimmed milk powder/whey protein powder (plus sweeten with a tsp of honey if needed)

Berry & Banana Smoothie
Blend 120g of mixed frozen berries with a small banana, 100ml of full-fat Greek yoghurt, 100ml of full cream milk and 1tsp of honey.
~420 kcal

Peach Lassi
Blend a can of tinned peaches in juice (drained) with 100g full-fat yoghurt, 50ml double cream and 100ml of full-fat milk
*Or try traditional mango lassi by blending a fresh mango into thin yoghurt

Banana, peanut butter and cacao milkshake
Blend 1 banana, 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter, 2 pitted mejool dates, a tablespoon of cacao and 200mls of milk

Be aware of milk alternatives, for example nut, oat and rice milk, as they contain very little protein.


Curbing a Sweet Craving

Many people find that after eating dinner, no matter how full they are, they always crave something sweet afterwards to finish off the meal. This is a problem when trying to watch our weight as the small sweet treats we have each day are likely to introduce an extra 100kcal at least, which over the course of a week equates to an extra 700kcal!

These kinds of cravings are habitual – this means we have no physiological need for extra food, but we have formed a habit which creates a physiological need for something sweet.

The reassuring news is that habits such as these can be broken. Most research suggests that it takes approximately 21 days to break a habit, and the longer you hold out, the easier it becomes.

We should all be following the 80:20 rule, so some desserts are allowed, as long as they do not become a daily feature in our diets. Below are some of our favourite recipes at the LOC for completely guilt-free puddings. These desserts taste great but rather than providing lots of empty calories also offer a whole host of vitamins, minerals and protein.


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  • 600ml cold water
  • 4 firm peaches
  • 4 firm nectarines
  • 75g (3oz) pure fruit spread, such as orange or grapefruit, or jam with no added sugar
  • 4 thinly cut strips orange rind
  • ½ tsp rose-water (optional)
  • Rose petals (optional)
  • Low-fat natural yoghurt or crème fraiche, to serve

Choose a pan large enough to fit all the fruit tightly in a single layer.
Pour the cold water into the pan and add the fruit spread and orange ride, heat this gently until the spread has dissolved then bring to the boil.
Carefully put the peaches and nectarines into the pan using a slotted spoon.
Cover and cook for 8 minutes, turning the fruit over if it’s not completely submerged in liquid.
Reduce the heat and simmer for a further 5 minutes until the fruit is tender.
Remove from the heat and cool the fruit in the syrup for 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the fruit and transfer to a serving dish and set aside.
Bring the syrup in the pan to the boil and boil until it has reduced by half. Allow to cool slightly then add the rose-water, if using, and pour over the fruit.
Cool completely before serving with custard or yoghurt and with rose petals, if you like.


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  • 2 Bananas
  • 40g chopped hazelnuts
  • 50g melted dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

Slice the bananas into disks.
Using a fork dip each disk into the melted chocolate and then place on a lined baking tray.
Sprinkle the crushed hazelnuts over the top of the disks on the baking tray before placing in the freezer for at least 1 hour.
Eat directly from the freezer.

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  • 400ml organic low-fat natural yoghurt
  • 4 tablespoons double cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 tablespoons apple concentrate
  • 100g raspberries

Mix the yoghurt with the cream, vanilla essence and half the apple concentrate. Place in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
Whiz the raspberries in a blender to a purée and add the remaining apple concentrate. Remove the yoghurt from the freezer and stir well (this breaks down the ice crystals and will make the frozen yoghurt smoother and lighter).
Return it to the freezer for another 30 minutes, then take it out again and stir well.
Add the raspberry purée and stir it through to give a rippled effect. Back it goes into the freezer for 3 hours to chill.
Before you serve the yoghurt, allow it to soften at room temperature for a few minutes.


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  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 400ml low-fat natural yoghurt
  • Dollop of almond butter (optional)

Allow the bananas to thaw for 5 minutes at room temperature, and then put them in a liquidiser, blender or jug if you are using a stick blender. Pour the yoghurt over the top and blitz until smooth-ish (there will be the odd lump, but this is part of the pleasure). Indulge immediately. You could add a dollop of almond butter for extra flavour.

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