Eating well and paying attention to nutrition are vital for health and well-being, even more so when you’re being treated for cancer and your body needs to rally its energy and resources against the disease. Healthy eating can help you maintain your body weight and keep your strength and energy up. It can also give your immune system a boost, reducing your risk of infection and helping your body heal and recover more quickly from treatment. In fact, some cancer treatments work better when you are well nourished.
HEALTHY EATING DURING TREATMENT
During cancer treatment, you may need more protein and calories than usual. Protein keeps your immune system healthy and helps your body recover from treatment; calories are your body’s energy source and can help you maintain body weight. You also need to keep your body hydrated, especially when your treatment is causing you to lose fluids to nausea and/or diarrhea.
- Boost your protein and calories with high-protein and high-calorie snacks or shakes between meals. See the Canadian Cancer Society website for ideas.
- Stay hydrated: drink plenty of water and other liquids every day.
- Fill your plate with fresh fruit and vegetables: you can’t beat them for flavour and nutrition!
- Choose whole grains like whole grain bread and brown rice instead of white bread and rice. Try cooking with grains like quinoa, barley and flax seed; they can replace meat on occasion, if it is hard for you to eat meat during treatment.
- Go easy on the sweets: avoid sugar-filled treats and replace desserts with fresh fruit, nuts and honey. If you really crave sweets, reduce the portion size.
- Drink less alcohol: be aware that alcohol interferes with some cancer treatments and increases the risk of some cancers. Speak to your cancer care team for advice.
SUPPORT FOR GOOD NUTRITION
Loss of appetite is a common concern for people going through cancer treatment. There may be times when you’re losing weight but food has no appeal or when you’re dealing with nausea and the last thing on your mind is eating. At those times, you may benefit from the support of a nutritionist, who can help you find foods and alternatives to provide you with the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs as you go through treatment and recovery.