5 meal planning steps to take prior to treatment

December 18, 2019 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Planning is an important step in managing the challenges of cancer. Whether preparing for how you’ll handle side effects, deciding how you’ll break the news to others or figuring out how you’ll get to and from doctor visits, planning can dramatically reduce stress during this difficult time.

When you are going through cancer treatment, your appetite, taste in foods and ability to eat enough food may be significantly impacted. Cancer and cancer treatment can also affect the way your body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients. Your body can easily become malnourished.

Planning your meals can help ensure that you get adequate nutrition, which will help you get through treatment and recover more quickly from it. A healthy diet can help you feel better, fight infections and keep your body strong.

Taking time to plan your meals can also remove the unnecessary anxiety of figuring out what to eat when you feel tired and overwhelmed, and allow you to focus on your recovery.

Follow these five meal planning steps so you keep eating well once cancer treatment begins:

  1. Stock up. Reduce the number of trips you’ll have to make to the grocery store by filling your freezer and pantry with some of your favorite healthy foods and nutritious, high-protein snacks. Also, stock up on foods you like to eat when you’re sick, like chicken noodle soup, crackers, popsicles, pudding and Jell-O.
  2. Pre-make meals and freeze them. Take away the stress of worrying about what you will eat in the coming days when you are sick or tired by cooking your meals ahead of time. Store them in meal-sized servings and freeze them to limit the amount of time spent in meal preparation later.
  3. Anticipate taste changes. During treatment, food may taste bitter, metallic or bland. Sugar-free lemon drops, gum or mints can help. You may also want to flavor foods with marinates/spices. Freeze fruits so you can eat them later as frozen treats.
  4. Line up help. Your family and friends can help reduce the tension of treatment by taking over tasks like cooking and grocery shopping. Ask them ahead of time what you’ll need help with so you don’t have to worry about it when your treatment starts.
  5. Ask the experts. As you should in all aspects of your cancer treatment, consult with your cancer team. Depending on your treatment regimen, you may need to change your diet. An oncology dietitian can help formulate the right strategy to ensure you maintain proper nutrition.

Beyond planning your meals, eating the right things, knowing what foods to avoid and practicing proper food safety are important factors in staying nourished during cancer treatment.

Cancer treatment weakens your immune system and your body’s ability to fight infections and other diseases, which includes foodborne illnesses. Make sure you take the time to prepare your food properly and avoid foods that have a high risk of becoming tainted with bacteria.

Learn more about cancer support services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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