Senior students in Lipscomb University’s Didactic Program in Dietetics contribute blogs to PearlPoint’s Pearls of Wisdom. View all student blogs here.
Getting Enough Nutrition
If you or a loved one is experiencing changes in appetite while undergoing cancer treatment, you are not alone. It is common for cancer and cancer treatment to significantly inhibit appetite. Such changes may be related to changes in taste or smell, digestive distress, or difficulty swallowing. Over time, decreased appetite and intake may lead to unintentional weight loss and malnutrition.
Food provides the energy and nutrients your body needs to recover, making it a vital component of the healing process. For this reason, eating well is an important part of cancer recovery, even when side effects make it challenging. Fortunately, malnutrition and weight loss may be prevented by eating more nutrient-dense and high-calorie foods.
Variety Is Important
To ensure that you are getting a variety of nutrients, it is important to include a lot of different foods in your eating plan. Choose foods with little to no processing, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, seafood, and whole grains. These foods naturally contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Each food is unique in its nutritional make-up. Building variety into meals and snacks ensures that you’re getting enough of each nutrient. For example, drizzling olive oil over potatoes, provides healthy fats as well as complex carbohydrates. Spreading nut butter on whole grain breads provides fiber, antioxidants, fats, and protein. Be creative when finding ways to consume combinations of whole foods, trying new foods along the way. Remember that the sense of taste may change during treatment, which can cause some previously disliked foods to be enjoyed, and vice versa. Keeping an open mind and focusing on whole foods can allow you to incorporate a variety of naturally occurring nutrients into the day, promoting health and healing.
Food Tips and Ideas
Below are some additional ideas for incorporating energy-dense and nutrient-dense foods into your diet.
- Adding healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados to salads
- Incorporating dried fruits, which may sit better in a sensitive stomach than their fresh counterparts
- Raisins, prunes, dried apricots, or dried mangoes are some options to try!
- Adding nuts and nut butters to oatmeal or cream of wheat
- Mixing whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa into soups and chili
- Serving crackers with cheese and hummus or nut butter and berries
- Building your own trail mix using ingredients in your pantry such as cereal, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, granola, dried coconut, and popcorn
- Making a smoothie using frozen fruit, nut butters, and whole milk
- Try frozen strawberries, bananas, or peaches and peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter.
- Drinking whole milk or 100% juice instead of water with meals
- Save water for in-between meals
- Having yogurt with nuts, nut butters, or granola as a snack
- Try vanilla yogurt with almond butter and honey granola or strawberry yogurt with peanut butter and dark chocolate granola.
- Making sandwiches with cheese or nut butters
- Try a grilled cheese, nitrate and nitrite free ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or almond butter and banana sandwich.
- Adding powdered milk or ground flax seed to smoothies, casseroles, mashed potatoes, puddings, and cream-based soups
- Drizzling olive oil over vegetables or brown rice
- Try broccoli, spinach, squash, or zucchini with olive oil or butter
Caplan, H. (2017, November 16). Healthy Ways to Gain Weight. Retrieved August 30, 2020, from http://www.eatingwell.com/article/290624/healthy-ways-to-gain-weight/
Eating Well During Treatment. (2020, June 9). Retrieved August 30, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/staying-active/nutrition/once-treatment-starts.html
Houghton, T. (2019, May 16). Go from Underweight to Healthy Weight with These Plant-Based Tips. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://nutritionstudies.org/go-from-underweight-to-healthy-weight-with-these-plant-based-tips/
Zeratsky, K. (2020, August 27). What’s a Good Way to Gain Weight if You’re Underweight? Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/underweight/faq-20058429
Authors Ashley Gibson and Kathryn Phillips, Students in the Lipscomb University Didactic Program in Dietetics