Senior students in Lipscomb University’s Didactic Program in Dietetics contribute blogs to PearlPoint’s Pearls of Wisdom. View all student blogs here.
Cancer—that dreaded word that an estimated 1.8 million people will hear from their doctor this year alone. While cancer is usually associated with unthinkable hurt and hardship, oftentimes cancer is treatable, and many go on to live long healthy lives after completing their cancer treatment. During treatment, cancer patients must find ways to cope, ways to find happiness, and ways to continue to eat to fuel their body which now needs more energy each day to support treatment and recovery.
During cancer treatment, there will be great days, okay days, and bad days when it comes to food and nutrition. Some days you may want to eat a lot, while other days you may not want to eat much at all. No matter what the day brings, the most important thing is to try to not get discouraged.
Good nutrition is as close as your kitchen refrigerator or cabinets. Keeping a well-stocked pantry means you’ll have easy access to healthy foods. Here are 9 tips to help promote good nutrition intake during cancer treatment:
- When you are hungry, make the most of that time and eat!
- Drink fluids outside of mealtimes to prevent feeling fuller during meal times.
- Find ways to add more foods with “healthy fats” in your diet such as salmon, avocado, nuts and seeds because these foods are higher in calories than other food groups.
- People tend to be most hungry in the morning so go big for breakfast. Protein pancakes, oatmeal with toppings, or eggs with toast are a great place to start!
- Don’t skip family meals. Social support especially around mealtimes is helpful!
- Limit unsavory smells. Going through chemo often makes people more sensitive to smells.
- Snack! You may not be hungry for a full meal, but every calorie helps. Granola bars, veggies with hummus, string cheese, protein shakes, and trail mix are great snack ideas.
- Take walks. Exercise helps with energy and appetite.
- Don’t be afraid to eat your favorite foods! Continue to do things that help you find joy during this hard time, including indulging once in a while.
Cancer treatment and recovery put a great toll on the body. Side effects from treatment may cause decreased appetite. Nutrition and hydration affect quality of life after cancer. Try the tips and ideas above to maintain health and strength. Any calorie intake during treatment is better than none, so be open to new foods and foods that you would not normally eat. Be sure to talk to a registered dietitian nutritionist if you have any questions. Happy eating!
Survivors Table: Calorie Dense Foods for a Low Appetite
US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health: Nutrition During and After Cancer Therapy
Authors: Miranda Curtis and Resa Herndon, Students in the Lipscomb University Didactic Program in Dietetics