Losing weight is a common New Year’s resolution, but for those undergoing cancer treatment, shedding pounds might not be the best idea.
Instead, patients with cancer should set a goal to eat foods that are rich in nutrients and minerals. While undergoing the cancer treatment process, eating well is necessary to help you feel better by keeping up your strength and energy. Developing good eating habits can also help you maintain weight and better tolerate side effects that you may experience throughout treatment. Eating a variety of foods can give your body the nutrients it needs to handle side effects during treatment.
Here are four goals you can set for eating well in the new year:
1. Eat more fruits and veggies.
Fruits and vegetables contain many essential nutrients like potassium, fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. They are also naturally low in sodium and calories. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, while fiber helps maintain a feeling of “fullness.” Vitamin A can help to protect against infections, while vitamin C helps to heal cuts and wounds.
Try to include more fruits and veggies in your day by topping your breakfast with some fruit, packing some in your lunch or having some as a snack.
You can include more veggies by adding them to a casserole or making them a side for one of your meals. And don’t forget, frozen vegetables are a convenient option that are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables as long as they are without added butter, cream or sauces.
2. Choose whole grains.
Whole grains are another great source of fiber, as well as B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium, selenium). B vitamins aid in metabolism by helping the body use protein, carbohydrates and fat; the minerals help form blood cells and transport oxygen, build bones and are essential for a healthy immune system. Fiber will improve bowel function and can help ease constipation, which is a common side effect of cancer treatment.
You can start by enjoying whole grain breads, cereals, pastas, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa and popcorn as part of a nutritious meal or snack.
3. Incorporate protein.
Protein is essential for growth, repairs body tissue and helps to keep your immune system healthy. Getting enough protein is essential throughout the cancer treatment process. Regardless of whether you’re your undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, adequate protein is needed to help fight infection and heal tissues. If the body does not have enough, it breaks down existing muscle to obtain the energy it needs to function.
Include a protein source at every meal to make sure you are getting enough throughout the day. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, milk, yogurt and cheese.
4. Limit fatty and processed foods.
Foods that are highly processed or high in fat should be avoided, as they are loaded with excess sodium, preservatives and added sugars. However, it is important to include healthy fats in your meals and snacks. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can be helpful to insulate body tissues, and aid in the transport of some vitamins in the body through the blood. Some examples of foods that include these healthy fats are vegetable oils (canola, olive), fish and nuts. Unhealthy fats such as trans fats should be avoided as much as possible, as they can raise cholesterol. Make sure to read the nutrition label of your foods to make sure there is little to no trans fat.
Keep in mind that although these suggestions will help you eat well, certain side effects during treatment may change your nutrition needs. Talk to a dietitian or your physician about potential ways to manage your side effects through nutrition.