Meal Planning

Eating healthy may seem difficult, especially for someone in cancer treatment. Busy schedules, tight budgets, and fatigue may make it difficult to make good food choices. However, by planning, you can create healthy and balanced meals that are easy to prepare and budget-friendly.

Follow these tips for meal planning.

Plan your meals and grocery list at the same time: As you work out your menu for the week, write down any groceries you will need to prepare each meal so you will only have to go to the grocery store once. Use our Meal Planning Worksheet and Grocery List to get started.

Shop your own pantry: Don’t forget about the foods you already have at home. Don’t let food go to waste by letting it expire before you use it. Check the expiration date and work the foods you already have into your meal plan.

Remember leftovers: Think about what food you will have left over after preparing a meal. Can you use that food for your next meal? For example, if you have roasted chicken for dinner, you could use the leftover chicken to make chicken soup or a sliced chicken sandwich for lunch the next day. This saves you money and time preparing food.

Store leftovers correctly: If you plan to make meals in advance or to use leftovers, make sure you store them safely. Pack and refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours of serving. Label and date each container. Eat refrigerated leftovers within 3-4 days. For more information about food storage times, visit Foodsafety.gov.

For ideas to include in your meal plans, check out our Meal and Snack Ideas for easy-to-make meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with minimal cooking required. For healthy meal inspiration, visit our Recipes.

Sample Menus

At some point in your cancer treatment, your healthcare team may recommend a special diet or ask you to avoid certain foods. If you have surgery that involves any part of your digestive system, you may need to eat a special diet for a few weeks or that diet may become a part of your everyday. For example, after a colostomy, you may need to follow a low-residue diet or low-fiber diet to reduce the amount and frequency of bowel movements to limit irritation to your digestive tract while you heal. Side effects from treatment may also cause you to need a special diet. If you are unintentionally losing weight, you may need a high-calorie or high-protein diet.

Here you can find sample meal plans for specific needs.

High-Calorie Sample Menus

High-Protein Sample Menus

High-Protein Sample Menus (Vegetarian)

Fiber-Restricted Sample Menus

Post Esophagectomy Sample Menus

Quick and Easy Menus for Young Adult Survivors

The provided menus are only suggestions. Talk to your healthcare team or a registered dietitian for recommendations and meal plans to meet your specific needs.