How do I make the best food choices throughout cancer treatment?

When you are faced with lymphoma, nutrition can be an important part of your journey. Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph nodes which are a mass of tissue that helps protect the body against infection. Eating a well-balanced diet during and after cancer treatment can help you feel better, maintain your strength, and speed your recovery.

Maintain a healthy weight. Aim to avoid losing or gaining much weight during treatment. Strict dieting is not recommended during cancer treatment. Losing weight can lower your energy level and decrease your body’s ability to fight infection.

Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Eating frequent small meals will ensure your body is getting enough calories, protein, and nutrients to tolerate treatment. Smaller meals may also help to reduce treatment-related side effects such as nausea. Try eating 5-6 small meals or “mini” meals about every three hours.

Choose protein-rich foods. Protein helps the body to repair cells and tissues. It also helps your immune system recover from illness. Include a source of lean protein at all meals and snacks. Good sources of lean protein include:

  • Lean meats such as chicken, fish, or turkey
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese or dairy substitutes
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Beans
  • Soy foods

Include whole grains. Whole grains provide a good source of carbohydrates and fiber which help keep your energy levels up. Good sources of whole grains include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat breads
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain pastas

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables offer the body antioxidants, which can help fight against cancer. Choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to get the greatest benefit. Aim to eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Choose sources of healthy fat. Avoid fried, greasy, and fatty foods. Choose baked, broiled, or grilled foods instead. Healthy fats include:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Limit sweets and added sugars. Foods high in added sugars like desserts and sweets provide little nutritional benefit and often take the place of other foods that are better for you.

Stay hydrated. Drinking enough fluids during cancer treatment is important for preventing dehydration. Aim to drink 64 ounces of fluid daily. Avoid drinking large amounts of caffeinated beverages. Too much caffeine can lead to dehydration.

Practice good food safety. Wash your hands often while preparing food. Use different knives and cutting boards for raw meat and raw vegetables. Be sure to cook all foods to their proper temperature and refrigerate leftovers right away. Read more about Food Safety.

Talk to your healthcare team before taking any vitamins or supplements. Some medications and cancer treatments may interact with vitamins and supplements. Choose food first as the main source for nutrients.

Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Alcohol may contribute to dehydration, can lower the abilities of your immune system, and provides no beneficial nutrients.

Most importantly, know that your cancer journey is unique to you and your treatment. You may experience side effects that affect your ability to follow these suggestions. If you are struggling with any side effects, such as loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or any other nutrition concerns, your needs may be different.  A registered dietitian can suggest nutrition guidelines that will be appropriate for your cancer journey. Schedule a time to talk to PearlPoint’s registered dietitian.

Recommended Resource for Lymphoma

  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
    Website: www.lls.org
    Phone: (800) 955-4572
    The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) mission is: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. The organization exists to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. LLs provides free information and support services. Contact LLS’s Information Specialists for one-on-one support.

Download the free fact sheet “Food and Nutrition Facts” from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

For more resources, visit PearlPoint’s Recommended Resources page.

Podcast: The Bloodline with LLS

Remembering Nutrition Throughout Your Cancer Journey

Good nutrition is important for cancer patients. Eating the right kinds of foods can help patients feel better and stay stronger. On this episode, Alicia Patten and Lizette Rivera from the Patient Access Education Team at LLS speak with nutrition educator, Margaret N. Martin, RD MS LDN CDE, about dietary information to keep in mind before, during and after active treatment. Cancer and cancer treatments can affect taste, smell, appetite and the ability to eat or absorb the nutrients from food. Margaret shares nutritional information to keep in mind during a person’s cancer journey.

Learn more and download this episode of the podcast here.

Subscribe to The Bloodline with LLS for more episodes on topics such as understanding diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and resources available to blood cancer patients.

*The information contained in this podcast is for general information purposes only and is subject to change without notice. It is not intended to substitute the advice of your healthcare provider or information provided to you by your insurance carrier.