Diet plan for cancer patient plays a significant role in the battle against cancer patients. Cancer is dangerous disease, and if not treated on time, it can be life threatening for the patient. Though medicine has made remarkable progress in recent years; the patient’s diet plan to fight the disease remains unchanged. It is still very important for cancer patients to eat a healthy and balanced diet plan that would prevent the occurrence of further health problems. Those who live with illness have to make some changes in their lifestyle as well. Healthy eating habits can control many effects of cancer such as nausea, vomiting, dehydration and fatigue.
Diet & Nutrition During Cancer Treatment
Nutrition & Cancer Treatment
A Healthy Diet Is Important at Each Step in the Cancer Journey
Eating problems like nausea or decreased appetite are common during cancer treatment. These problems can make it hard to feel well and eat healthy. Eating healthy can:
- Help with side effects like nausea, diarrhea, or taste changes.
- Help maintain body weight and muscle mass.
- Help give you more energy.
- Help prevent delays or breaks in treatment.
- Help prevent hospital stays or reduce the time you are in the hospital.
- Help improve how well you respond to treatment.
- Help improve how well treatment works.
Your Food Advocate: A Registered Oncology Dietitian
A registered dietitian (RD or RDN) is an expert on diet and nutrition. An RD who has the letters CSO after their name is a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition. They have demonstrated experience and skills in helping cancer patients eat healthy and manage eating problems. It is important for cancer patients to visit with an oncology dietitian to develop a plan for a healthy diet. If there is not a CSO available where you are receiving treatment, ask for an RD with oncology experience.
Search for an oncology dietitian near you or ask your healthcare team to recommend one. Meeting with your oncology dietitian on a regular basis helps you cope with eating problems as they occur and stay healthy. For example, patients who get help from an RD are able to limit weight loss better than patients who don’t get help from an RD.
Hear Nutrition Tips From an Expert
Oncology nutritionist Rachel Beller answers questions and gives tips on managing food and meals to help us eat well and feel well.
Food Safety During Treatment
It is important to handle food safely during cancer treatment. Cancer and cancer treatment can weaken your immune system and make you more prone to infection. This includes infection from foods. The following tips are helpful ways to keep your food safe.
- Wash your hands before eating.
- Keep surfaces that come into contact with food clean.
- Keep hot foods hot (above 140°F) and cold foods cold (below 40°F).
- Avoid cross-contaminating raw meats and vegetables. Store raw meat on the lowest shelf to avoid juices contaminating other foods.
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables well before eating.
- Avoid high risk foods like undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish and unpasteurized milk or cheese.
- Avoid high risk foods like sushi, ceviche, raw bean and alfalfa sprouts, foods from street vendors, and self-serve buffets.
- Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator and not on the counter.
- Refrigerate foods promptly after eating.
- Your healthcare team may give you more specific instructions.
Coping With Eating Problems From Cancer Treatment
Cancer can be overwhelming. There are so many questions, issues, and concerns that can come up. It is important to talk to your healthcare team about your questions and concerns.
A way to be an active partner with your healthcare team is to keep a food and symptom journal. It will help you track what you eat and your side effects. Show this journal to your healthcare team often so they can address and manage any issues. It will help your team manage your treatment and recommend the healthiest diet for you.
Side effects like being tired or having nausea, diarrhea, or constipation are normal during treatment. Most often, these issues go away after treatment ends. We offer tips on how to cope with common eating problems caused by cancer treatment below.
Not Hungry or Feeling Full Too Quickly
If you don’t feel hungry or feel full too quickly:
- Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day, instead of 3 big meals.
- Eat with friends or family or watch television while eating to take your mind off your lack of appetite.
- Keep an eating and drinking schedule and set an alarm to remind you to eat.
- Keep snacks next to you during chemotherapy or while in bed.
- Make mealtime as pleasant as possible. One idea is to set the table, use nice plates, and have flowers as a centerpiece.
Overeating or Feeling More Hungry Than Usual
If you have an increased appetite or feel more hungry than usual:
- Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day instead of 3 big meals.
- Limit high-calorie foods such as pizza, fried foods, foods made with cheese or cream, and desserts.
- Choose lower calorie foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, baked or grilled poultry and fish, and beans.
- Eat higher fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans to help you feel more full.
- Include small portions of healthy fats from avocado (1⁄8 slice), nuts (¼ cup), or nut butters (2 tbsp) to help you feel more full.
- Be aware of the right portions. For example, a portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, a piece of fruit or a serving of vegetables is the size of a baseball, a serving of grains is the size of a light bulb, and a serving of nuts is the size of a golf ball.
- Drink a glass of water before meals to fill up and avoid overeating.
How to Eat When You Have Cancer
What you eat is really important when you have cancer. Your body needs enough calories and nutrients to stay strong. But the disease can make it hard to get what you need, which can be different before, during, and after treatment. And sometimes, you just won’t feel like eating.
You don’t need a drastic diet makeover. Just a few simple tricks to make good-for-you foods easy and appetizing.
Start focusing on healthy foods even before you begin your treatment. You don’t know how it will affect you or what kind of side effects you might have. That’s why it’s a good idea to get good nutrition now. It can help you feel better and your body stay strong.
It’s also a good time to plan for the days when you won’t feel like making anything to eat. Fill your fridge and pantry with healthy foods, especially those that need very little (or no) cooking. Nuts, applesauce, yogurt, pre-chopped veggies, and microwaveable brown rice or other whole grains are easy options. Make batches of some of your favorite entrees and freeze them, too.
You may also want to line up some friends and family who can bring you meals for the first days or weeks of your therapy.
You may have days when you feel hungry, and others when food is the last thing you want.
On good days, eat lots of protein and healthy calories. That will keep your body strong and help repair damage from your treatment.
High-protein foods include:
- Lean meat, chicken, and fish
- Beans, nuts, and seeds
- Cheese, milk, and yogurt
Try to eat at least 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Include dark green and deep yellow veggies, and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits. Colorful foods like these have many healthy nutrients. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly.
Drink plenty of liquids all day. Water is a great choice. Try fresh-squeezed juice, too. It gives you some extra vitamins along with the liquid your body needs to stay hydrated.
It’s also key that you don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, fish, and poultry. Don’t eat foods or drink beverages that are unpasteurized.
Eat when you’re hungry. If that’s in the morning, make breakfast your biggest meal. Drink meal replacements later if your appetite fades as the day goes on. If meals are a struggle, eat five or six small ones instead of two or three big ones during the day.
Have small, healthy snacks on hand, too. Yogurt, cereal, cheese and crackers, and soup are all good choices. If you’re having chemotherapy, a snack or small meal right before a session might keep nausea away.
Manage Side Effects
Many side effects of cancer treatments can make it hard to get enough to eat. Your diet may help you get past some of the most common issues.
Nausea/vomiting: Avoid high-fat, greasy, or spicy foods, or those with strong smells. Eat dry foods like crackers or toast every few hours. Sip clear liquids like broths, sports drinks, and water.
Mouth or throat problems: For sores, pain, or trouble swallowing, stick with soft foods. Avoid anything rough or scratchy, and spicy or acidic foods. Eat meals lukewarm (not hot or cold). And use a straw for soups or drinks.
Diarrhea and constipation: For diarrhea, it’s really important to stay hydrated. Drink lots of liquids, and cut back on high-fiber foods like whole grains and vegetables. If you’re constipated, slowly add more high-fiber foods to your diet. Plenty of liquids is key for this problem, too.
Change in taste: Treatment can have a funny effect on your taste buds. Things you didn’t like before might taste good now. So be open to new foods. See if you like sour or tart flavors like ginger or pomegranates. Spices such as rosemary, mint, and oregano might help you enjoy other foods, too.
Do’s And Dont’s
- Stay hydrated all the time.
- Eat mixed foods (carbs, protein and fat).
- Consume less dietary fat.
- Include nutrient dense (macro and micro) foods in your meal.
- Fibre has to be included as it plays a major role in gastro intestinal related cancers.
- Consume Properly cooked vegetables and other food items.
- Consume the fruits then and there after chopping.
- Consume all varieties of foods from all food groups (cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk products, nuts, meat products).
- Avoid oily foods, junk foods, foods thaat include cream, mayonnaise, cheese.
- Avoid salads, half cooked foods, unpasteurised milk/juices.
- Avoid fatty/smoked/cured meats and meat products.
- Never eat foods that are kept in refrigerator after cooking.
Food Items You Can Easily Consume
- Cereal: Brown rice, whole wheat, oats, jowar, bajra, ragi
- Pulses: red gram, green gram, black gram, bengal gram and beans like kidney, navy, pinto, back eyed, broad, cluster, french.
- Vegetables: all gourds-bitter gourd, snake gourd, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, ivy gourd, ladies finger, tinda,green leafy vegetables
- Fruits: banana, citrus fruits-orange, mousambi, grape fruit, lemon; berries-strawberry, blueberry, black berry; cranberry, cherries, papaya, pineapple, avocado, guava.
- Nuts & seeds: chia & flax seeds, almonds, walnuts.
- Milk and milk products: low fat milk, low fat curd, low fat paneer.
- Meat,fish & egg: Skin out chicken, egg white, fish like salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, tuna.
- Oil: 2 tsp (10ml)
- Sugar: 2 tsp (10gm)
- Other beverages: green tea.