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Learn About Nutrition©
Written by Cancer Center Staff

Source: Cancer Resource Room

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Nutrition and Cancer
Eating a healthy, balanced diet and drinking plenty of liquids are important during chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Food and liquids give our bodies the fluids, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates we need to function. Food also gives us energy and helps us fight infection.

Eating Tips During Treatment
  • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of liquids every day.
    • Good liquids are water; non-acidic fruit juices (example - apple juice, cranberry juice); milk; soups; gelatin; yogurt; popsicles, and sherbets.
  • Limit liquids that have caffeine or alcohol because they can cause dehydration.
  • Stay on a regular meal schedule whenever you can. Try not to skip meals. Try to snack between meals.
    • Puddings, fruit, cheese, crackers and ice cream make good snacks.
  • Carbohydrates supply your body with the calories it needs to function.
    • Good sources of carbohydrates include potatoes, pasta, bread, cereal and cooked vegetables. Try to choose whole grain over "white" carbohydrates (example - eat brown rice instead of white rice).
  • Protein helps you keep up strength during treatment, and helps you heal after treatment .
    • Good sources of protein include chicken, turkey, lean beef, soy foods, beans, fish, cheese, eggs and milk.
  • Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
    • Some examples are citrus fruits, apples, carrots, green leafy vegetables and broccoli.
    • If you have a low white blood cell count (WBC), try to avoid eating at salad bars and wash raw fruits and vegetables very well. This will help prevent you from getting sick from food.

Improving Your Appetite
It is common for patients with cancer to lose their appetite during their diagnosis and treatment. You may not feel like eating anything. Here are some ideas to help improve your appetite.

  • Give yourself smaller portions. It may be easier to eat small frequent meals than larger ones.
  • Drink a high calorie beverage (such as Ensure or Boost), or eat a snack that does not need to be cooked. Sometimes, this is more appealing than large hot meals.
  • Try eating in a place you don't usually eat.
  • Have family and friends eat with you.
  • Prepare meals that look good. Use different colors, shapes and smells.
  • Look through cookbooks or magazines to find foods that look good to you.
  • Use all of your senses. Place flowers on the table. Listen to music.
  • Eat out occasionally. Restaurants have many foods to choose from. This can increase your appetite. Or, eat at a friend's house and let them do the work.
  • Freeze meals for times where you are too tired to cook.
  • Remember that eating is one part of your cancer treatment that you can control. You may not be able to control everything during your treatment, but you can control what you eat.
When Eating Is Difficult
You may have side effects during chemotherapy or radiation therapy that make eating and drinking difficult. Do not worry if you are unable to eat for a brief period of time. If this happens, try to eat small, bland meals as often as you can.

Talk to your doctor, nurse or nutritionist about how to manage specific side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and constipation, and difficulty swallowing. The members of your health care team can give you ideas about how to get enough liquids, calories, nutrients, carbohydrates and proteins when cancer treatment affects your ability to eat.

What's New
To Search Pub Med, please see below.
Consumer and selected health professional journals

Support & Education Programs

We know that being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful for you and your family. We offer a variety of cancer support services to help patients and families gain the support and information they will need to meet the challenges ahead.

For example, we offer several educational programs on nutrition such as: "Eating Healthy for Your Immune System" and "Eating the Calories You Need" plus additional support and wellness programs. Look for the current offerings in the HOPES calendar.