Diet & Nutrition for Cancer Patients
Nutrition During Cancer Treatment
Eating well during treatment can help you feel better and maintain your strength and energy. It can also keep your immune system stronger, which will enable you to tolerate treatment-related side effects better and recover faster. You will want to talk with your Houston Methodist clinical dietitian for specific suggestions related to your treatment and its side effects, but the following suggestions are a great place to start:
- Eat about 6 to 10 small meals or snacks each day.
- Eat your largest meal when you are hungriest.
- Avoid heavy foods that are greasy, fatty or spicy.
- If food odors bother you, choose to eat foods cold or at room temperature, or leave the kitchen while food is being prepared.
- If you do not feel hungry all the time, eat according to the time; eat every two hours on the hour. Set your alarm to remind you it is time to eat.
- Carry high-calorie, high-protein snacks with you at all times. Do not skip meals or snacks.
- Make your calories count — drink milk, juices, shakes and sports beverages instead of water for additional calories.
Nutrition After Cancer Treatment
Your post-treatment diet should be very similar to the diet recommended to prevent cancer. After all, the goal of preventing cancer is the same. In addition to those general recommendations, the following tips may be helpful for cancer survivors:
- According to the American Institute of Cancer Research and American Cancer Society, soy-based foods are safe to consume in moderation for all cancer survivors including hormone-based cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer.
- The American Institute of Cancer Research recommends no more than 18 oz of red meats (beef, lamb, pork and venison) per week and to avoid processed meats (bacon, hot dogs, and sausages).
- Limit your added sugar intake. Foods that are high in added sugar can lead to weight gain, which is linked to several types of cancers.
- There is no evidence that dietary supplements can lower your chances of cancer recurring or improve survival rates; instead, eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Vegetarian diets can be a healthy choice, but they have not been shown to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence more than generally healthy diets.
- American Cancer Society guidelines recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate activity (walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (jogging) per week to maintain a healthy weight.
Nutrition to Prevent Cancer
If everyone exercised daily, consumed a healthy diet and maintained a healthy weight, about one-third of the most common cancers might be avoided.
A healthy diet is one with a rainbow of colors and may incorporate the following suggestions:
- Lots of fruits and vegetables (five to nine servings) daily, especially leafy green vegetables
- Plant-based and lean proteins such as tofu, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, chicken breast and fish
- Plant-based fats such as olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil and avocado
- Whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread and whole-grain pasta
- Limited alcohol intake (two or fewer drinks per day for men, and one or fewer for women)
Houston Methodist offers a variety of general nutrition and wellness programs designed to help you feel better during and after treatments, including therapeutic massage services to you and your family members.
For more information, call Wellness Services at 713.441.5980.