Nutrition After a Cancer Diagnosis

Oftentimes, patients ask about healthy nutrition once they receive a cancer diagnosis. 

Shannon Shaver, Clearview Cancer Institute nurse, recommends the MyPlate example from the US Department of Agriculture. 

The four categories of MyPlate are:

  • protein
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • fruit
  • dairy

“Whether you have certain dietary needs or cooking abilities, the plan is flexible so that patients choose the way they meet these food goals,” said Shaver.

Food Safety 

Food safety is critical for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. During treatment, patients may have a reduced immune system, so avoiding bacteria that could be found on fruits vegetables or within meat is important to consider.

“Make sure that when you go to the grocery store, the farmer’s market or even your backyard and get your fruit and vegetables that you bring them in and wash them well before consuming,” said Shaver.  Rinsing thoroughly is an important step to wash off any pesticides or bacteria that can be found on the outside of the fruit or vegetable. 

“For your meat, there can be bacteria present if we don’t cook meat well, so while you’re on chemotherapy, make sure that you cook red meat to a well temperature,” said Shaver.  “Eggs should not be runny and avoid any raw meat sushi.”

Appetite While on Chemotherapy

While patients are on chemotherapy, it’s common for patients to either feel queasy or not be interested in food altogether, however keeping calories up will help patients in their battle against cancer.

If your appetite has decreased, consider these tips:

  • Set a timer to remind you to eat. A reminder triggers patients to grab a quick snack.
  • Eat with somebody. A social activity makes eating more enjoyable and helps you to make meals a priority.
  • Know what causes you to feel ill.  Sometimes food smells can make patients nauseous.  

“Sometimes food smells cause an adverse reaction, and so for my patients that have issues with the smell of food, I recommend eating food that’s cold,” said Shaver.  “If you eat something like a cold sandwich, it doesn’t have the same aroma as cooking food.”

Another thing patients should consider is if drinking liquids is making them too full for food. If that’s the case, attempt to eat and drink separately.   Patients can sip on water during the meal, but don’t drink a full glass of water right before your lunch. 

If you have any questions about nutrition, food safety or appetite while you’re undergoing chemotherapy, feel free to reach out to the Clearview Cancer Institute team.