Your guide to grocery shopping during cancer treatment

September 19, 2018 | by Doreen Berard, RD, LDN

Shopping for groceries can be overwhelming. Not only are there bright lights shining down on colorful packaging and sale signs everywhere, there are a multitude of choices that can easily prevent you from eating healthy. It can be even more difficult to shop (and cook) while you are going through cancer treatment.

Make your life easier. Strategize for your next grocery store trip by following these tips:

  • Know the layout of your store. Many experts recommend shopping only the perimeter of the store, as that’s where the healthiest and freshest food tends to be displayed. If you have a sweet tooth for baked goods, candy, chips and snacks, avoid the center aisles.
  • Make a list of what you need before you leave home. Without a list, you may be tempted to buy junk food you want and not the healthy foods you need. Group the items on your list by category, such as dairy, frozen foods and produce, to save time and energy at the store.  
  • Stock your kitchen with ingredients. Keep these items in your cupboard, refrigerator and freezer. You’ll be able to throw healthy meals together in a hurry. You’ll also have some food at your convenience when you aren’t feeling well enough for a trip to the store. 
  • Do your best to meal plan. Meal planning can help your waistline and your budget—and keep you on the healthy track. Figure out what you’re going to eat for the week, create a list and shop for groceries at one time. Be sure to plan for new meals and for nights you’ll eat leftovers. 
  • Shop grocery store alternatives. There are many online retailers that will bring groceries directly to your front door. If you’re feeling tired or too busy to make the trip, some grocery stores even have order online/pick up services.  

While you’re at the store, get to know what’s actually in the foods you’re eating by paying close attention to the labels, including serving size, calories and nutrients. The American Cancer Society recommends we all eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with less fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Fill your shopping cart with more of these foods.

Here are some ways to eat well throughout treatment:

  • Have healthy snacks close by for when you’re hungry and don’t have time to cook
  • Don’t wait until you are hungry to eat. Instead, eat several small meals throughout the day.
  • Eat high-protein foods like dairy, nuts, beans, poultry, eggs and meats at meals and snack times.
  • Have fluids in between meals to prevent getting full too fast at mealtime.
  • Eat your biggest meal when your appetite is the strongest.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new foods that you wouldn’t have eaten before—they may taste completely different.
  • Manage taste changes by experimenting with foods, marinades and spices.
  • Know what foods to avoid during treatment.

Since cancer and its treatment affects everyone differently, talk to your care team and/or an oncology dietitian about how you can stay nourished during treatment. 

Learn more about cancer services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Browse Healthy Driven recipes.

Related blogs: 

What does an anti-cancer diet look like?

Eating healthy during cancer treatment

Eat this or that: eating well and fighting cancer

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