Green plate with a white bowl filled with nuts, popcorn, and pretzels.

If Eating Feels Overwhelming, Try These Mini Meals

Why are Mini Meals Helpful When You Have Cancer?

Cancer and cancer treatment can cause taste and smell changes, nausea, a lack of interest in eating, aversions to food, and/or the feeling of getting full quickly.  

When these or other challenges with eating occur, many have found that smaller, “mini meals” and well-timed snacks are easier to consume. Splitting your day into six timeframes where you eat small amounts of food — instead of two or three larger meals/day — can be less overwhelming. It also helps you get closer to meeting your overall nutritional needs. 

3 Tips for Eating on a Mini Meal Schedule

1. Use smaller plates and bowls, like a 5-8” salad or dessert plate or 3-6 oz ramekins. Smaller plates and bowls help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by food.    

2. Timing is important. Set a time in advance when you’ll have 3 small meals (i.e. 8 AM, 12 Noon, and 6 PM). Then eat a very small snack within 30 minutes after finishing each mini meal. You may not feel hungry for a snack after each mini meal, but taking even a few bites boosts your overall intake at any time when your digestive system is already doing its job breaking down and absorbing food.  

3. It’s okay if you can’t finish everything. The purpose of establishing this routine is to reduce stress and pressure around eating. This means going easy on yourself and prioritizing frequency over quantity.  




Daily Mini Meal Examples to Try Out

Here are some examples of what mini meals followed by very small snacks might look like in a day. Iris can help you further adjust these ideas to match your preferences and needs.

Mini Meal 1 (8:00 AM)  

Small Snack (8:30 AM)  

Quick cook steel-cut oatmeal with sliced banana and 2 tbsp chopped nuts  

2 dates and ¼ cup of nuts  

1 egg (fried or scrambled in olive oil) 1 toasted English muffin with earth balance 

½ cup sliced melon and ¼ c cottage cheese  

1 slice whole-grain toast with peanut butter and sliced banana  

½ cup  homemade smoothie with protein powder added (recipe link)  

Mini Meal 2 (Noon)  

Small Snack (12:30 PM)  

½ sandwich (turkey and cheese, tuna, tofu, or egg salad) on whole grain bread and sliced cucumbers with hummus 

½ cup Greek yogurt with granola and berries  

1 cup soup served with 1 oz cheese or 1/3 cup tuna salad and whole grain crackers  

1 sliced apple and 10 almonds  

Small portion of leftovers served on an appetizer-sized plate  

 6-8 whole wheat crackers with cheese  

Mini Meal 3 (6:00 PM)  

 Small Snack (6:30 PM)  

8-10 tortilla chips topped with black beans, salsa, and grated Mexican cheese, toasted  

1 granola bar topped with 1 tbsp peanut butter  

½ of a wrap or burrito with chicken or beans, guacamole, or avocado  

1/3 cup hummus with baby carrots and pita chips  

3 oz turkey burger served on whole-grain toast topped with avocado, cheese, and condiments of choice  

½ cup homemade trail mix made with nuts, dry cereal, and dried fruit


This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.