Eating Well During Cancer Treatment

Nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment and recovery. The Linda B. and Robert B. Wiggins Wellness-Survivorship Center offers Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) patients nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian. Call 801-587-4585 to make an appointment. Learn more in our video about Nutrition Services at HCI.

 

This information is meant to provide general information about nutritional support during cancer treatment. It is not a substitute for medical advice from your health care provider. This information was written by dietitians in HCI's Wellness-Survivorship Center.


fruits and veggiesNutrition Tips for Cancer Patients

  • Eating a diet with foods rich in antioxidants such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is safe and healthy for patients in cancer treatment.
  • Some dietary supplements can interfere with cancer treatment and with the body's ability to absorb or use other nutrients. Be sure to discuss diet and any supplements taken with a doctor and a dietitian.
  • Hydration is an important part of good nutrition. Unless told differently, patients should try to consume at least 8 cups of non-caffeinated liquids a day. This can include soups or other foods containing a high liquid amount.
  • Food safety is important because the immune system is weakened during cancer treatment, which can make a patient more likely to get a food-borne illness. 
  • Some cancer treatments make it difficult to swallow, a condition called dysphagia. Patients should talk with their doctor or dietitian about managing dysphagia.
  • Some patients need more calories, protein, and other nutrients during cancer treatment and recovery. 

Nutrition Tips for Managing Cancer-Related Side Effects

Nausea and Vomiting
Changes in Taste
Sore Mouth or Throat
Fatigue
Constipation
Diarrhea
Weight Loss


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Nausea and Vomiting

  • Avoid or limit foods with strong odors. Eat foods cold or at room temperature.
  • Eat dry, bland foods, such as crackers or toast, often. Limit fried or spicy foods.
  • Eat small, frequent meals slowly. Relax after meals to allow foods to digest.
  • Avoid your favorite foods when you feel nauseated. Eat them when you feel well.
  • After eating, loosen clothes, get fresh air, and don't lie down.
  • Ask your health care provider if any medicine(s) can help.

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Changes in Taste
  • Try cleaning your mouth before eating.
  • If sweet foods do not taste good, try sour, bitter, or tart flavors.
  • Try adding lemon, lime, and orange to meals.
  • Use sugar-free lemon drops, gum, or mints.
  • Try eating with plastic utensils to reduce metallic tastes.

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Sore Mouth or Throat

  • Drink plenty of liquids. Using a straw may help.
  • Choose soft, moist foods.
  • Cook food until soft and tender.
  • Use cold foods to soothe a sore mouth or throat.
  • Avoid foods such as citrus fruits andjuices, spicy or salty foods, and rough, coarse, or dry foods.
  • Rinse your mouth often to remove food and bacteria. Ask your dentist about cleaning products for the teeth and gums.
  • Ask your health care provider if any medicine(s) can help.

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Fatigue

  • Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time.
  • Let friends or family cook for you.
  • Keep snack foods at hand.
  • Use paper products to reduce clean-up time.

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Constipation

  • Eat plenty of high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. Prune juice may help.
  • Take walks and exercise regularly.
  • Ask your health care provider before taking any stool softeners or laxatives.

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Diarrhea

  • Eat frequent, small meals.
  • Try eating bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, pasta, and potatoes to thicken stool.
  • Avoid greasy, fried, or spicy foods.
  • Drink plenty of liquids between meals.
  • Reduce the amount of milk and milk products you eat.

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    Weight Loss

    • Try to eat four to six small meals per day.
    • Drink liquids between meals rather than with meals.
    • Eat slowly and take breaks during meals.
    • Eat more at breakfast. Appetite is often best in the morning.
    • Add protein to your diet. Foods such as cheese, yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, meats, and beans are good sources of protein.
    • Add calories to your diet. Try using powdered milk, honey, mayonnaise, creamer, margarine, butter, and peanut butter to add calories to your meals.

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