Eating healthy during cancer treatment

January 25, 2017 | by Doreen Berard, RD, LDN

Cancer and its treatment can change how food tastes and smells, lower your appetite, or make you feel queasy. Eating healthy can be hard to do, but it is an essential part of healing and recovery.

Following a healthy diet means eating and drinking enough foods and liquids that have important nutrients. This includes fruits, vegetables, protein, vitamins, minerals, fat, water and carbohydrates.

Eating well while you’re being treated for cancer can help you:

  • Feel stronger and have more energy
  • Maintain your weight and your body’s store of nutrients
  • Better tolerate treatment-related side effects
  • Lower your risk of infection
  • Heal and recover faster

The way you eat during and after cancer treatment may be different than how you have in the past. You may find that your diet changes throughout treatment depending on how you feel, especially if you are struggling with cancer-related side effects.

For most people, a healthy diet includes:

  • Eating lots of fruit and vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals
  • Modest amounts of meat and milk products
  • Small amounts of fat, sugar, alcohol and salt

Talk to your dietitian and cancer care team about a healthy meal plan for you, and learn what can be done to manage the side effects of treatment.

In the meantime, try these tips to eat healthy:

  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids including water, ginger ale, unsweetened juice and sports drinks
  • Prepare meals ahead of time by freezing dishes into smaller portions
  • Try soft, bland, easy-to-digest foods (plain crackers, chicken noodle soup, pudding, gelatin)
  • Try eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day instead of 2-3 larger meals
  • Eat foods that are cool or at room temperature and stay away from foods that are greasy or fried
  • Eat when you are hungry and take advantage of days when you have an appetite by eating what appeals to you
  • Rinse your mouth often and chew sugar-free mints or gum to remove any bad tastes

Don’t be afraid to experiment with new foods, including adding a seasoning or spice to improve the flavor

How do you eat healthy and battle the side effects of cancer? Tell us in the below comments.

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