Nutrition is a vitally important, yet often overlooked part of cancer treatment. Eating well while you are undergoing treatment for breast cancer can help you feel better, have more energy, better tolerate treatment-related side effects, and recover and heal from surgery. Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle after treatment can help reduce the risk of and manage some chronic health conditions that can occur after cancer treatment, such as cancer recurrence, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. For nutrition tips and recipes, click here for Forge’s videos with Laura Rutledge, MA, RDN, CSO, who specializes in oncology nutrition during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment at St. Vincent’s Bruno Cancer Center in Birmingham, AL
Eating healthy means eating a variety of foods.
Variety not only makes what you eat more interesting but allows your body to get the different nutrients it needs. For instance, if you eat many servings of the same fruit day after day, you may not be getting all the nutrients that you need. It is important to focus on your overall dietary pattern, not a specific food. No single food, vitamin, mineral, spice, herb or supplement can prevent or cure cancer!
Nutrition Tips During Treatment to Address…
- Poor appetite is a common challenge. Try thinking of food as medicine and eating as simply a part of your overall treatment and care.
- Eat 4-6 “mini-meals” instead of 3 meals a day.
- Eat in a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere.
- Liquids can sometimes fill you up and keep you from eating food. Drink most liquids between meals.
- It is discouraging when foods do not taste like we remember or think they should taste. Try different foods than those you are used to eating or prepare them in a different way.
- Experiment with seasonings! Try salt-free blends such as Italian or Mediterranean seasoning. Sprinkle food with fresh basil or parsley after cooking for a bright taste. Marinate meat, chicken, and fish before cooking (Italian dressing is an easy marinade).
- If you have a metallic taste in your mouth, use plastic utensils instead of metal ones.
- Add a splash of lemon juice to foods to offset a bad taste. Add lemon or lime wedges, fresh mint, or ginger to water or tea for a refreshing drink.
- Rinse your mouth with a mixture of baking soda and water before meals.
- Limit your intake of fatty foods, such as fried foods, rich sauces, and gravy when feeling nauseated.
- Choose lower fat foods that are cold or at room temperature as the smell of hot foods may trigger nausea. Sandwiches, cheese or peanut butter and crackers, hard-boiled eggs and cereals are often well-tolerated.
- Try sips of ginger ale or try dried ginger or peppermint candies to help settle the stomach.
- Start your day with a good breakfast. Try to include at least 1/3 of your protein requirements in this meal, such as eggs or lean meats. Unlike carbohydrates (toast or cereal), protein provides you with long lasting energy and will help you keep your energy throughout the day.
- Eat plenty of iron rich foods, like lean red meats, poultry, dark green vegetables and dried fruits.
- Get some exercise, if able. Being physically active can help improve feelings of fatigue. Light exercise can also improve appetite.
- Avoid caffeine and white or refined sugars (cookies, cake or candy). While these products are OK in moderation (they may even give you a quick boost!), they tend to cause a rapid rise and fall in your blood sugar and will leave you more tired.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can make you feel more fatigued.
Nutrition and Recipes for Cancer Patients
Forge Cancer Conversation: Nutrition and Breast Cancer
This information was shared by Forge partner and Registered Dietician Nutritionist Laura Rutledge, MA, RDN, CSO, who specializes in oncology nutrition during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment at St. Vincent’s Bruno Cancer Center in Birmingham, AL. For specific recipes aimed at cancer prevention and treatment, visit her website, Nourishing Plate: https://www.nourishingplate.com/