Nutrition during cancer treatments


If you're going through cancer treatments, you may find that you've lost your appetite or that foods smell or taste differently. Finding the right foods to keep your strength and immune system strong may be a challenge, even when it's one of the important steps you can do for yourself.

Terri Taylor, registered dietitian with HonorHealth's Virginia G. Piper Cancer Care Network says, "Consider food as part of the overall cancer treatment and survivorship plan."

She offers some smart tips for diet and nutrition during cancer treatments.

Drink plenty of fluids

Fluid intake is critical throughout cancer treatment as becoming dehydrated can deepen fatigue. If you find that water tastes funny to you, try one of the following with your water:

  • Adding a twist of lemon or lime.
  • Infusing your water with melon, berries or cucumber.
  • Adding a splash of 100 percent fruit juice.

You can also substitute low-sugar sports drinks, unsweetened herbal teas and frozen fruit bars for water.

Focus on fruits and vegetables

Terri suggests you try to eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables as they have a lot of natural compounds that support the body and work with cancer treatment. She recommends: berries, broccoli, carrots, mangoes, kale, peaches, spinach, squash.

Making smoothies using fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables is an easy way to ensure you're getting the nutrition from these items. Adding vegetables to soups is another way.

Find lean proteins and low-fat dairy products

"Foods like turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy can help you maintain your body and muscle mass," says Terri.

Choose foods that are soft and moist

The side effects of some forms of radiation and chemotherapy can leave your mouth and throat feeling swollen, making it harder to swallow. Choose softer foods, and add sauces, dressings or broth to your food to help with eating.

Try ginger and turmeric

Ginger can help with reducing nausea and turmeric can help reduce inflammation. Terri also recommends that you eat smaller portions more frequently to help maintain your energy and combat nausea.

HonorHealth offers nutritional counseling for cancer patients. To make an appointment with a board-certified cancer dietitian, call 480-882-4703 and/or have your physician fax a referral to 480-882-5807.