Nutrition during Cancer Treatment
Clinical nutrition services at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans
Nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment that requires you make the effort to eat the right kinds of food. Good nutrition is very important to individuals with cancer because both the disease and your treatments can negatively affect your appetite. Cancer and cancer treatments can also change your body’s ability to tolerate certain foods and affect how your body uses nutrients. Your nutritional needs can change because of cancer so it is important to talk with your doctor, nurses, and nutritionist to determine what type and how much food you should eat.
Eating well while being treated for cancer can help you to:
- Feel better
- Maintain your strength and energy
- Keep your weight up
- Overcome treatment-related side effects
- Decrease your risk of infection
- Heal and recover from treatment quicker
Eating well means eating a balanced diet of foods that provide you with the nutrients you will need to maintain your health while fighting cancer. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Eating the right kinds of foods with the right amount of nutrients before, during, and after treatment can help you feel better and stay stronger.
Suggestions for eating well
Individuals who eat a balanced diet are better able to cope with the physical side effects of cancer treatment.
To make sure you maintain a healthy diet, we recommend that you:
- Choose a diet with many types of plant-based foods—substitute beans and peas for meat
- Try to eat at least 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables—these foods contain natural health-promoting substances
- Limit high-fat foods—choose lower-fat milk and dairy products, and use lower-fat cooking methods such as baking or broiling
- Limit the amount salt-cured, smoked, and pickled foods
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
- Eat small, nutritious snacks throughout the day—examples of nutritious snacks include pretzels, granola, sports drinks, and canned fruit
- When possible, eat a variety of protein-rich snacks—for example, yogurt, cereal and milk, cheese and crackers, and nuts
- Eat several small meals and snacks each day rather than three large ones
- Eat your favorite foods any time of the day—for example, eat breakfast foods for dinner if they taste good to you
- Eat every few hours—don’t wait until you feel hungry
- Try to eat high-calorie, high-protein foods at each meal and snack
- Drink most of your fluids between meals instead of with meals—this will prevent you from becoming too full to eat
- Drink high-calorie, high-protein drinks such as milkshakes and commercial liquid supplements—cold liquids are usually tolerated well
- Don’t be afraid to try new foods—some foods you never liked before may taste good to you during treatment
Eating after treatment
After you have completed cancer treatment, you may still lack an appetite, have difficulty swallowing, or experience weight loss. That is why it is important to maintain a healthy diet even after treatment has ended. We recommend asking a dietitian to help you create a balanced meal plan.
To keep up a healthy diet after treatment, we recommend that you:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Eat lots of high-fiber foods
- Reduce fat intake
- Limit salty, smoked, and pickled foods
- Reduce or cut out alcohol
To learn more about Touro's nutritional support or a nutritional consultation contact Liz Cabrera, RD at 504.668.3753.