Nutrition During and After Breast Cancer Treatment
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 after treatment may help decrease the risk of cancer recurrence as well as improve your overall health.
Here are some common questions I get about nutrition and cancer that may help you as you go through this journey.
I’m getting cancer treatment and just don’t feel hungry. Is this normal? Poor appetite is a common challenge I hear from patients. It can result from the cancer itself, treatment or even emotions and stress from dealing with cancer.
- Try thinking of food as medicine and eating is simply a part of your overall treatment and care.
- Eat 4-6 “mini-meals” instead of 3 meals a day.
- Liquids can sometimes fill you up and keep you from eating food. Drink most liquids between meals.
- Nutrient packed smoothies can replace a meal and be more appetizing than a typical meal. (Check out this Smoothie Builder template for ideas!)
- Eat in a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere.
Foods just don’t taste good right now. Are there any foods to help with taste changes? It is discouraging when foods don’t 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! Marinate meat, chicken and fish before cooking. If you have a metallic taste in your mouth, use plastic utensils instead of metal ones. Add lemon juice, ginger ale or mint to offset a bad taste and rinse your mouth with a mixture of baking soda and water before meals. Here are a couple of recipes to try that incorporate some of these tips!
I’m feeling nauseated and don’t want to eat anything. How can I get the nutrition I need? Nausea can be caused by the cancer or cancer treatment. Be sure to talk with your healthcare team if you are experiencing nausea or if it is not well-controlled. Anti-nausea medications can be very effective if used properly. Limit intake of high-fat foods such as fried foods and rich sauces and gravy when feeling nauseated. These take longer to leave the stomach. Instead, choose lower fat foods that are cold or at room temperature as the smell of hot foods may trigger nausea. Try sips of ginger ale, dried ginger or peppermint candies to help settle the stomach. Recipes to try:
I’m done with treatment! What can I do to help reduce my risk of cancer recurrence? Congratulations! Research suggests that eating a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight may improve survival and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Not to mention, these lifestyle habits may help reduce the risk of other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Enjoy a plant-based diet – aim for meals made up of two-thirds or more vegetables, fruits, whole grains or beans and one-third or less animal protein.
- Watch portion sizes and cut down on sugary and high-fat foods to help lower weight if needed.
- Include a variety of vegetables and fruit – aim for at least 5 servings a day.
- Be physically active – aim for 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity.
Look for more information on next month’s blog post on breast cancer and nutrition as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
Forge is delighted to partner with Laura Rutledge, MA, RDN, CSO, a Registered Dietician Nutritionist who focuses on oncology nutrition for Cooking with Laura focuses on nutrition during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. For more information and recipes from Laura check out Nourishing Plate!
All images courtesy Laura Rutledge and Nourishing Plate.