When a person is diagnosed with cancer, they become more aware of the things they put into their bodies. Some treatments are harsh and have adverse effects. Fortunately, there are things that can be done to protect the body and manage the symptoms of chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and surgery. Below we share nutrition recommendations during and after cancer treatment.
Nutrition Guidelines for People with Cancer
- Maintain a healthy weight. Some treatments cause people to eat more; others cause people to eat less. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight by getting enough calories each day. These calories should come from high proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.
- Be active. Living with cancer does not mean that you have to sit indoors all day. There are days when you won’t feel well, but make your best efforts to be active. A simple walk around the block or a relaxing yoga class can do wonders for the mind and body.
- Get enough nutrients. Talk to your doctor about taking specific vitamins that you may be deficient in. For example, some cancer patients benefit from high levels of Vitamin C and Vitamin D.
- Eat the right foods. When you do have an appetite, it’s important to eat the right foods. Good nutrition boosts the immune system and may enhance the effectiveness of treatment. The best foods include vegetables, fruits, proteins and whole grain carbohydrates. Foods to avoid are deep fried foods, red meat and processed/preserved foods.
Tips for Getting the Right Nutrients
When someone is sick with a cold or the flu, they tend to reach for comfort foods. When going through cancer treatment, the same is true. Cancer patients not only feel ill but also are dealing with the side effects of treatment such as nausea, mouth sores and taste changes.
Try to make each calorie count. Here is some advice to support healthy eating.
- Drink fluids. If water doesn’t taste good, get it in other ways such as by eating broths, watermelon or smoothies. It’s important to stay hydrated.
- Add spices. If foods taste bland, steer clear of salt, ketchup, barbecue sauce and other condiments. Instead, flavor foods with herbs and spices such as rosemary, dill or garlic.
- Eat small meals. Rather than eating three big meals, aim for six small meals. This will keep your energy levels up and avoid bloating and overeating.
- Get enough protein. Protein is important for the body, so make sure you’re getting enough of it. If you don’t enjoy chicken, try fish, eggs, cheese or beans instead. Even nut butters and high-protein smoothies are great options.
- Chew gum. If you have a metallic taste in your mouth, try gum, mints or citrus fruits. Plastic silverware can also help, as well as brushing your teeth before eating.
Eating a healthy diet may prevent other diseases from starting and make overall treatment more effective. You can learn more about diet and nutrition at cancer.net.