Nutrition is of critical importance during cancer treatment and it is key to find foods that taste good during chemo and radiation. Your body needs enough calories to stay strong, but sometimes eating can be a challenge. Eating before and during cancer treatment can be a long, tiring struggle but there are tips to keep you nourished before and during treatment so you can focus on fighting cancer.
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Before Cancer Treatment
It’s important to start eating healthy and nourishing your body before you even begin treatment. Proper nutrition will help keep your mind and body strong through your treatment. During this time, it’s good to make plans for meals that you can have during treatment. Fill your fridge with foods that require little to no preparation/cooking. Foods such as fruit, nuts, yogurt, and veggies are great choices. Another great option is to prepare meals to freeze so they can easily be reheated at times you have less energy. Here are some of our dietitian-approved, cooked and photographed recipes to inspire you to eat before and during chemo and radiation.
Easy to Prepare Tasty Meals:
Here are some of our favorite mason jar salad recipes, slow cooker recipes that you can freeze ahead and nine ideas of what to cook when you don’t feel like cooking:
During Cancer Treatment
Some days you’ll feel like eating, other days not so much. It’s important to eat foods high in protein and nutrients to keep your body strong during this time. Lean meat such as chicken is a great source of protein and can be easily incorporated into many dishes. Fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and yogurt are other great sources of protein. It is also important to get sufficient vitamins and nutrients from fruits and vegetables. If you don’t want to eat them, drinking squeezed fruit juice is an option that will give you an extra health boost! You can also try some premade nutritional shakes, such as Kate Farms*, Boost Very High Calorie*, or Ensure Plus*.
Foods that Taste Good during Chemo and Radiation
As always, stay hydrated! Drinking plenty of water is essential, especially during treatment. If you haven’t eaten in a while, try to sip on something like a protein shake so your body stays strong. If you’re struggling with eating 3 meals a day that doesn’t mean you have to go straight to meal replacements. Instead of eating 3 meals a day; eat 6 small meals a day or eat 2 meals and a meal replacement – find what works best for you. Food such as soup, yogurt, string cheese, and pretzels are some healthy snacks that you can keep on hand.
Here is a blog about 5 Water Alternatives if you are bored with water or if you are having trouble staying hydrated during chemo.
Managing Side Effects During Chemo and Radiation
Whether you are trying to stay nourished during chemo or radiation therapy, comfort foods are often a good choice especially if you keep in mind the following tips.
Nausea & Vomiting:
- Avoid foods with strong smells
- Avoid spicy foods
- Try snacking on saltines, toast and other dry foods which are good for nausea
- Chewing/sucking on ginger root or eating food with ginger in it can also be helpful
- Drink small amounts of water, broth and electrolyte-rich drinks to keep you hydrated
- If you can’t keep liquids down, try sucking on crushed ice
Ginger root can help you manage nausea during chemo:
Sores on Mouth & Dry Throat:
It’s best to stick to soft, small foods – for example, try eating soft peaches cut up into little pieces
Stay away from spicy, extremely hot, and acidic food as these can irritate your mouth and throat even more.
Diarrhea and Constipation during Chemo or Radiation:
Having digestive symptoms makes finding foods that taste good during chemo more challenging, so best to focus on how to manage these symptoms first to help you get your appetite back. Here are some suggestions.
If you are experiencing diarrhea it is crucial to stay hydrated by drinking lots of liquids such as electrolyte drinks and water
With diarrhea, it’s best to cut down temporarily on foods that are high in fiber.
If you are experiencing constipation, stay hydrated and add more high-fiber foods into your diet.
Examples of high-fiber foods:
- Bran flakes
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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients. Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.