Strategies for healthy eating during cancer treatment
To compound everything else about living with cancer, the common side effects of cancer treatment include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting and fatigue, to name a few. This makes it much more difficult to eat at a time when your body needs the most nutrition it can get. Being strategic about what you eat can help to achieve an adequate number of calories – when you’re feeling more like taking a nap than eating.
If you aren’t able to eat a full meal, don’t pressure yourself: Break up your meals into six to eight small ones throughout the day; or, try to eat something every two to three hours to maximize the opportunity to give your body nutrition.
Eat the foods that you can tolerate best, with calories and protein being your priorities.
Make your calories count:
- Try to incorporate a protein source each time you eat for help regenerating healthy cells
- Keep foods on hand that are high in calories and protein such as nuts, peanut butter, tuna salad, chicken salad, spreads and dips; that way, you don’t have to eat a large amount to get the nutritional benefit
- Fortify your foods with powdered-milk powder, protein powder or by adding cream or whole milk, butter, cheese, sauces, gravies and salad dressings
Drinking a shake or nutritional supplement drink when you take medications can afford you extra calories and protein, especially if taken more than once per day. Nutritional supplement drinks can be purchased in the grocery store, usually near the pharmacy. Look for “plus” versions, which will have more calories and protein per serving. For variety, blend with frozen fruit for fortified smoothies.
Remember: even eating a small amount can be beneficial. Good nutrition “adds up” in the body; so, results can be seen with consistent effort! For more information on eating well during treatment, check out these tips from the American Cancer Society.