Once cancer treatment is complete it is time to restore and rejuvenate the body by feeding it with the best foods for optimal nutrition. Nutrition status, physical activity, and body weight all play a role in preventing cancer recurrence. Here are some guidelines to follow while adopting a new lifestyle now that cancer treatment is over.
Eat a wide variety of colors of fruits and vegetables everyday.
- Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals that fight against cancer. Each color contains a different phytochemical. A wide variety of colors introduces more types of these cancer fighting chemicals into the body.
- Choose organic varieties when available to limit exposure to chemicals and pesticides. Wash all fruits and vegetables very well.
- The most important fruits and vegetables to buy organic are those that are conventionally grown with the most pesticides. These are often referred to as the “dirty dozen.” To learn more, visit Organic vs. Conventional Foods and Cancer.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great alternative to fresh and are easy to have available when time for shopping is limited.
Choose complex carbohydrates for increased energy.
- Select complex carbohydrates like whole grains (oats, wheat, brown rice, whole grain pasta) and whole fruits and vegetables.
- Complex carbohydrates are digested slowly due to their high fiber content, providing sustained energy.
- Choose grain products that have whole wheat or a whole grain flour listed as one of the first 3 ingredients.
- Avoid highly processed and refined grains (white enriched flour, baked goods, snack foods, sweets).
- A serving of whole grain is one slice of bread, ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta, and ½ cup of whole grain cold cereals and oatmeal.
Choose lean protein most of the time.
- Choose lean proteins that include beans, eggs, white meat chicken and turkey, and fresh fish (not farm raised). When available, select organic and locally farmed. Other good sources of protein are nuts, and tofu.
- Limit red meat to less than 18 ounces per week. Red meat includes beef, pork, and lamb. For reference, one ounce of meat contains 7 grams of protein.To make sure that you are getting enough protein, aim to eat a source of protein at every meal.
Incorporate good fats into meals and snacks.
- Eliminate fried foods and eat foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as avocados, fish, and nuts.
- Avoid trans fats and avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated oils.
Limit sweets and simple sugars. Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Choose fruit to satisfy cravings for sweets. Sweets provide our body with empty calories and no nutritional value.
- Stevia is a plant-based natural sweetener that is an acceptable alternative to sugar, or artificial sweeteners like aspartame sucralose, and saccharin.
Drink plenty of water.
- Staying hydrated is essential to rejuvenating the body. Too much caffeine may lead to dehydration.
- Green tea and white tea are also good beverage options for staying hydrated.
- Aim for 64 ounces of caffeine free fluids per day. If you are not drinking any water, start slowly and gradually increase water intake.
Eat consistently throughout the day to avoid overeating.
- Five to six small meals per day eaten every 2-3 hours help to keep blood sugar levels more stable.
- Smaller, more frequent meals help with weight management by encouraging metabolic rate to increase.
- Smaller, more frequent meals allow for better absorption of nutrients.
Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight for your height.
- Eat healthy by following the guidelines on this handout.
- Consult with a registered dietitian to determine individual energy needs and a realistic goal weight.
- Monitor food intake and measure portion sizes.
- Begin to track food intake in a journal. You can use our worksheets or a web-based programs such as www.thedailyplate.com , www.sparkpeople.com, or www.myfitnesspal.com to easily track your food intake.
- If not currently exercising, gradually work toward 45-60 minutes daily. This can be split up into 10 or more minute increments to make it more possible when time is a factor.
- Be realistic and start slowly. A regular exercise program may help to minimize stress and depression.
- Choose an enjoyable activity. Enlist a friend or relative as an accountability partner.
- Choose food first as the primary source for vitamin and minerals. Ask a registered dietitian for guidance on vitamins, minerals, and other nutrition supplements.
- Do not rely on supplements for cancer prevention.
- For more information, read What Do I Need To Know About Supplements?
Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Alcohol is a contributing factor to many types of cancer.
- Alcohol provides the body with calories but not any nutrients.
Download the free publication Healthy Behaviors from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) for more healthy lifestyle tips.