Nutrition is a vitally important, yet often overlooked part of cancer treatment. Eating well while undergoing treatment for breast cancer can help your loved one feel better, have more energy, better tolerate treatment-related side effects, and recover and heal from surgery.
However, often those going through cancer treatment don’t feel well enough to eat. This can be for several reasons.
- Poor appetite is a common challenge. Try thinking of food as medicine and encourage eating as part of their overall treatment and care.
- Try providing 4-6 “mini-meals” instead of 3 meals a day.
- Provide a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere.
- Liquids can sometimes fill them up and keep them from eating food. Encourage drinking most liquids between meals.
- It is discouraging when foods do not taste like we think they should taste. Try providing different foods than those they 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 your loved one has a metallic taste in their 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.
- Encourage rinsing their mouth with a mixture of baking soda and water before meals.
- Limit 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.
- Encourage a good breakfast. Try to include at least 1/3 of their protein requirements in this meal, such as eggs or lean meats. Unlike carbohydrates (toast or cereal), protein provides long lasting energy and will help keep energy throughout the day.
- Provide plenty of iron rich foods, like lean red meats, poultry, dark green vegetables and dried fruits.
- Encourage 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 a quick boost!), they tend to cause a rapid rise and fall in your blood sugar and will leave you more tired.
- Encourage lots of fluids. Dehydration can make them feel more fatigued.
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/