Healthy Eating during Cancer Treatment
Over the next few posts, we are excited to have guest expert and registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist Julie Lanford from CancerDietian share her expertise on how to eat healthy and stay nourished during cancer treatment.
Question 1: Sometimes it’s hard to think about healthy eating during cancer treatment because patients feel so yucky. What advice do you have for eating well during treatment?
Answer: Sometimes cancer treatment can result in poor appetite, difficulty eating or challenges with digesting food. Not getting enough nutrition can result in the following:
- Weight loss
- Muscle loss
- Muscle weakness
- Low energy
- Easily fatigued
- Delayed healing
It’s important to be sure that you are getting enough calories and protein to prevent this loss!
One of the best ways to know if you’re not eating enough is the scale. Also, pay attention to your body. If you notice changes in your strength or your clothes fitting differently, that can be a sign of a change in your body composition (decrease in muscle, increase in fat mass).
Optimize your nutrition despite these challenges by getting creative with food!
Talk to your treatment team about how many calories and protein you need during your time of treatment and recovery.
Tip 1: Eat on a schedule. Even if it’s small, have a meal within 1 hour of waking and every 2 hours after that. Most importantly, don’t skip meals! Set a timer, if needed.
Tip 2: Try not to get overly concerned with the quality of the foods you eat. If all you feel like is having is a milkshake, your body will use it! During this season of treatment and recovery, having something to eat is much better for you than having nothing to eat!
Tip 3: To maximize calories, choose foods high in fats like avocados, nut based foods and oils, full fat dairy products and cream based soups. Making smoothies or other blended foods can help make your nutrients easy to swallow. You can also add calories and protein with nutrition supplement drinks.
Most people know about the drinks, like Boost or Ensure or Carnation Instant Breakfast. Getting nutrition from a bottle is sometimes your best option. Try these tips for helping it taste better!
- Drink it cold. Refrigerate the bottle before you serve it.
- Pour it over ice. A lot of ice! Fill a large cup or water bottle completely full of ice and then pour the refrigerated drink over it.
- Use a lid, and a straw. During treatment, smells can bother some people. Be sure to put a lid on the cup or water bottle and use a straw. A travel coffee cup can work well, and put a straw through the drinking spout.
For more tips and ideas on staying nourished during treatment, ask to speak with your cancer center dietitian and visit https://www.cancerdietitian.com/tips.