High calorie drinks

You can boost your diet by having high calorie and protein drinks.

  • High calorie and protein drinks can be useful in the short term if your appetite is poor.
  • You can make your own energy filled drinks, they can contain milk or be diary free.
  • Ready made drinks are also available to buy or to get on prescription.
  • You have these between meals and carry on with your normal diet as well.

Making your own

You can make your own energy filled drinks. Blend milk, fresh fruit, yoghurt, honey or sugar and ice cream into a smoothie or milkshake. You can use dairy free alternatives such as silken tofu or smooth nut butters. It will improve the protein content of homemade drinks.


Use fresh apple, strawberries, banana or other soft fruit. Blend it with fortified milk, fruit juice or yoghurt in a liquidiser or with a blender.

Smoothies made with fruit juice will have much less protein. So they are less nutritious than those based on milk or yoghurt. Supermarkets sell mixed fruit and frozen smoothie mixes. These work well if you are making your own.

Add a handful of pumpkin or sesame seeds for a few extra calories. The best thing about making your smoothies is that they usually taste great. You can also control the flavour.


Make a nutritious milkshake by mixing fortified milk with puréed fruit or fruit yoghurt. Top with a scoop of ice cream for extra energy.

To make a chocolate and banana milkshake, use chocolate flavoured milk. Then whizz in a blender with a banana. This is delicious and nutritious and easier to manage if you can't face a meal.

Ready made drinks (liquid supplements)

High calorie meals as a drink or energy drinks are also called liquid food supplements or sip feeds.

They can be useful short term if your appetite is poor and you can't manage to take in enough nourishment. You can use them to replace a meal or to boost your calorie intake between meals.

Many come in different flavours such as chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and banana. There are also savoury ones in the form of soups. Your dietitian can suggest recipes or other ways to make supplements more palatable.

There are several ready made commercial brands available on the market. You can buy these from your chemist, but they can be expensive. Your doctor can give you a prescription for the drinks.

Prescriptions are free if you live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England, if you have cancer, you can apply for free prescriptions.

Some ready made drinks have enough nutrients and calories to replace your meals. But it is always best to try and eat if you can.

Some drinks should be used alongside meals to give you more energy. There are 2 types.

Two types of liquid supplements

You can buy these supplements over the counter and in some supermarkets. They come as a powder that you make up into milkshakes, soups, hot drinks or cold drinks.

They include products such as Meritene and Complan.

These products contain all the nutrients to replace a meal. Your doctor, GP or dietitian can prescribe them. A district nurse or specialist nurse can help arrange a prescription for you.

It's possible to buy them yourself, but they are expensive. Your doctor or dietitian also need to check on you if you use them. These supplements come as a liquid in a carton or bottle. They are either milkshake style, yoghurt style or fruit juice style.

Milk based supplements
  • Ensure Plus
  • Fresubin Energy
  • Fortisip
  • Resource shake
  • Ensure Plus Yoghurt Style
  • Fortifresh Yoghurt Style
  • Clinutren
Fruit based supplements
  • Ensure Plus Juce
  • Fortijuce
  • Clinutren Fruit
  • Resource Fruit
  • Provide Xtra

Talking to your doctor

In most cases, you have these between meals and carry on with your normal diet as well. You will boost your nutritional intake if you drink between 2 and 3 cartons a day.

Do not take more than your doctor or dietitian recommends. The drinks contain vitamins that could be harmful in large amounts. Tell your doctor, dietitian or pharmacist if you are taking any vitamin supplements.

You may need to avoid taking certain medicines soon after or before having the drinks. The drink may change how much you absorb the medicine. Ask your pharmacist or dietitian about when to take your medicines and when to have the drinks.

Protein and energy supplements

These products are powders or liquids. They contain either energy or protein with a small amount of energy. You can add them to many different foods and drinks. They are not nutritionally balanced and not suitable as a meal replacement. But they are helpful to boost either energy or protein levels. 

When taking these products, you should still eat and drink normally if possible. These products can be expensive, so your doctor should prescribe them if you need them.

Protein only supplements should only be used if your doctor prescribes them for you.

  • Maxipro
  • Protifar
  • ProSource and Prosource Plant
  • ProCal shot
  • Polycal
  • Maxijul
  • Calogen
  • Liquigen
  • Nutrition and Cancer
    Edited by Clare Shaw
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2011

  • Nutrition support for adults: oral nutrition support, enteral tube feeding and parenteral nutrition (CG32)

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), August 2017

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • Symptom management in advanced cancer (4th edition)
    R Twycross and others
    Radcliffe Medical Press Ltd, 2009

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in.

Last reviewed: 
25 Mar 2020
Next review due: 
24 Mar 2023

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