Try to eat well.
A healthy diet helps your body function at its best. This is even more important if you have cancer. You’ll go into treatment with reserves to help keep up your strength, your energy level, and your defenses against infection. A healthy diet can also prevent body tissue from breaking down and build new tissues. People who eat well are better able to cope with side effects of treatment. And you may even be able to handle higher doses of certain drugs. In fact, some cancer treatments work better in people who are well-nourished and are getting enough calories and protein. Try these tips:
- Don’t be afraid to try new foods. Some things you never have liked before might taste good during treatment.
- Choose different plant-based foods. Try eating beans and peas instead of meat at a few meals each week.
- Try to eat at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day, including citrus fruits and dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables. Colorful vegetables and fruits and plant-based foods have many natural health-promoting substances.
- Limit high-fat foods, especially those from animal sources. Choose lower-fat milk and dairy products. Reduce the amount of fat in your meals by choosing a lower-fat cooking method like baking or broiling.
- Try to stay at a healthy weight, and stay physically active. Small weight changes during treatment are normal.
- Limit the amount of salt-cured, smoked, and pickled foods you eat.
If you can’t do any of the above during this time, don’t worry about it. Help is available if or when you need it. Tell your cancer care team about any problems you have. Sometimes diet changes are needed to get the extra fluids, protein, and calories you need.Snack as needed
During cancer treatment your body often needs extra calories and protein to help you maintain your weight and heal as quickly as possible. If you’re losing weight, snacks can help you meet those needs, keep up your strength and energy level, and help you feel better. During treatment you may have to rely on snacks that are less healthy sources of calories to meet your needs. Keep in mind that this is just for a short while – once side effects go away you can return to a healthier diet. Try these tips to make it easier to add snacks to your daily routine:
- Eat small snacks throughout the day.
- Keep a variety of protein-rich snacks on hand that are easy to prepare and eat. These include yogurt, cereal and milk, half a sandwich, a bowl of hearty soup, and cheese and crackers.
- Avoid snacks that might make any treatment-related side effects worse. If you have diarrhea, for example, avoid popcorn and raw fruits and vegetables. If you have a sore throat, do not eat dry, coarse snacks or acidic foods.
If you’re able to eat normally and maintain your weight without snacks, then don’t include them.