Nutritional Well-being: Healthy Eating Tips

Healthy eating is essential during cancer treatment and recovery

Our registered dietitians understand the effects of cancer and cancer treatments on your appetite and digestive system, as well as the ability to smell, taste, chew and swallow food. Although it can be difficult to get proper nutrition when you don’t feel well or have a diminished appetite, eating is a crucial part of the treatment and recovery process. A healthy diet also plays a major role in your physical, emotional and social wellness.

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Because our dietitians work exclusively with people who have cancer, we have the deep knowledge and specialized expertise to offer personalized nutritional advice. We are familiar with the side effects of specific cancer medications and how they impact appetite, eating and nutrition.

Through customized nutritional consultations, we offer practical tips and solutions tailored to your symptoms, dietary restrictions, preferences and medical history. We work closely with you so you can make healthy food choices, and we’re in close communication with your oncologists to review the medications you’re taking and monitor any side effects. Our team has experience addressing every cancer-related eating concern, including:

  • Blood glucose levels, which can rise as a result of some medications
  • Changes in taste and smell
  • Chewing and swallowing difficulties
  • Decreased appetite and appetite loss
  • Dehydration and poor nutrition
  • Dry mouth, thickened saliva and soreness in the mouth and throat
  • Increased sensitivity to cold, which can result from some chemotherapy drugs
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, gas and other digestive issues

How to eat right when you have cancer treatment side effects

We have compiled tips and strategies to address some of the most common eating issues people have during cancer treatment. Before making changes to your diet, be sure to talk to a dietitian who has experience helping people with cancer. These strategies can help you feel better and get the nutrients you need, even when you’re dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment.

The following tips are excerpted from a comprehensive handout created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Our dietitians provide you with the complete handout when you meet with us:

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are very common chemotherapy side effects. To reduce these side effects and ensure that you’re getting the calories you need, you can:

  • Eat several smaller meals throughout the day rather than a few big meals
  • Choose juices, sports drinks and carbonated drinks like ginger ale to ease nausea
  • Reach for foods that are bland, not spicy, and options like saltine crackers and dry toast
  • Avoid skipping meals, if possible, since nausea can worsen when the stomach is empty

Changes in appetite

Many cancer treatments can cause loss of appetite. You may also feel less interested in food if you’re tired, stressed, worried or in pain. But eating healthy is critical to an overall wellness plan, especially during cancer treatment. When you’re not hungry or food doesn’t seem appetizing, try to: 

  • Choose high-calorie, high-protein foods, and keep snacks with you so you can eat whenever you can
  • Eat several small meals throughout the day, and schedule meals and snacks by setting a timer
  • Identify times of the day when you feel hungry, and make it a point to eat more during those times
  • Sip a smoothie, milkshake or nutritional drink if they sound more appetizing than solid foods

Constipation

Constipation is a common side effect of chemotherapy. It can also result from decreased physical activity. To prevent or alleviate constipation, you should:

  • Drink more water, aiming for at least 10 cups throughout the day
  • Eat fiber-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods
  • Talk to your doctor about how you can safely increase your physical activity, which can help you have a bowel movement
  • Try drinking a warm mug of water or tea every morning at the same time

Nutrition Services

We offer customized consultations, recipes and nutritional support.