Eating Well While Receiving Chemotherapy
How Chemotherapy Affects Eating
- Improve how you feel
- Maintain strength, energy, and weight
- Tolerate side effects from chemotherapy
- Decrease the risk of infection
- Be able to recover faster
Tips for Eating
Dealing With Loss of Appetite
- Eat small meals every 1-2 hours, instead of the traditional three larger meals a day.
- Eat high-protein, high-calorie foods.
Add extra calories and protein to meals by using ingredients like:
- Milk powder
- Protein powder
- Peanut butter
- Honey, jam, and sugar
- Cheese and cream cheese
- Use liquid supplements that are specially prepared with extra nutrients (found in most health food stores)
- Drink shakes, smoothies, milk, and soup if chewing and eating solid food is a problem.
Eat soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow, such as:
- Soft fruits (bananas, applesauce, watermelon, peaches, and pears)
- Cottage cheese
- Mashed potatoes
- Macaroni and cheese
- Custards and puddings
- Scrambled eggs
- Oatmeal or other cooked cereals
Supplement meals with snacks that are rich in protein and calories, like:
- Cheese (soft, hard, and cottage)
- Avocado spread on toast or crackers
- Hard boiled eggs
- Full-fat yogurt
- Try to get a lot of calories at breakfast, as this may be the most tolerable meal of the day.
- Avoid drinking fluids with meals to prevent feeling full from the fluid. Continue to drinks fluids throughout the rest of the day.
- Eat in a pleasant environment with other people.
Managing Nausea and Vomiting
- Eat prior to chemotherapy treatment.
- Avoid foods that are likely to cause nausea, such as spicy foods, greasy foods, or foods with strong odors.
- Eat small meals.
- Slowly sip fluids throughout the day.
- Eat dry, bland foods like crackers, toast, or breadsticks throughout the day.
- Sit up or lie down with the upper body raised for one hour after eating.
- Avoid eating in the room where food was prepared. The odor may be too strong.
- Avoid eating in a room that is too warm.
- Rinse out your mouth both before and after eating.
- Suck on hard candies, like peppermints or lemon drops, if there is a bad taste in your mouth.
One Final—But Important—Note
- Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly, even if you plan on peeling the fruit or vegetable.
- Wash your hands and food preparation surfaces before and after preparing food, especially after handing raw meat.
- Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.
- Be sure to cook meat and eggs thoroughly.
- Avoid raw shellfish and sushi.
- Use only pasteurized or processed ciders and juices and pasteurized milk and cheese.
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov/
BC Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca/
Appetite changes. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/SurvivorshipDuringandAfterTreatment/NutritionforPeoplewithCancer/NutritionforthePersonwithCancer/nutrition-during-treatment-poor-appetite . Updated October 6, 2011. Accessed April 18, 2012.
Chemotherapy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MBC/content/MBC%5F6%5F2X%5FWhen%5FYou%5FHave%5FChemotherapy.asp?sitearea=MBC . Updated February 2008. Accessed March 11, 2010.
Effect on cancer treatment on nutrition. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/nutrition/Patient/page3#Section%5F159 . Updated April 2009. Accessed March 11, 2010.
Nutrition for the person with cancer during treatment. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/SurvivorshipDuringandAfterTreatment/NutritionforPeoplewithCancer/NutritionforthePersonwithCancer/nutrition-during-treatment-benefits . Updated October 6, 2011. Accessed April 18, 2012.
Once treatment starts. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/SurvivorshipDuringandAfterTreatment/NutritionforPeoplewithCancer/NutritionforthePersonwithCancer/nutrition-during-treatment-once-treatment-starts . Updated October 6, 2011. Accessed April 18, 2012.
Otto SE. Oncology Nursing . 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc; 2001.
- Reviewer: Peter J. Lucas, MD
- Review Date: 05/2012 -
- Update Date: 05/07/2012 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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