Whether you are actively dealing with cancer or are currently in remission, eating a balanced, nutritious diet can help you feel better physically and mentally. Although your doctor will likely give you advice on healthy foods, understanding that proper nutrition can benefit your body as you fight your illness may make keep you motivated to plan healthy meals in advance. A meal plan for cancer patients should include foods from a variety of food groups.
Proper nutrition for cancer patients plays a role in your ability to handle treatments, surgery or other medical procedures, according to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. As you eat healthy foods, your body is better able to rebuild tissue. Good food also gives you energy and strength, which can help you both physically and mentally. The UMCCC indicates that in some cases, a properly nourished cancer patient may be able to tolerate more aggressive treatments than one who is not.
Breakfast and Snacks
A balanced breakfast and two snacks can help you prepare for upcoming treatments, or give you energy for your day. Have a small cup of orange juice, a scrambled or pan-fried egg and a piece of whole-wheat toast for breakfast. If you have trouble swallowing, try a fruit and yogurt smoothie and a bowl of warm oatmeal. If you are nauseous, avoid greasy breakfast foods such as turkey sausage or bacon. Healthy snacks include cereal and milk, yogurt, 1/2 cup of canned fruit, 100 percent fruit ice pops, pudding made with skim milk or nuts. If you are most hungry early in the day, the National Cancer Institute recommends eating the majority of your calories when you are hungry to try and meet your nutritional needs.
Lunch and Dinner
Soup is a filling, easy-to-eat food if you have a lack of appetite or find it difficult to chew and swallow thick meats or breads. Vegetable soups, chicken noodle soups or mild bean soups are good choices. Seafood, such as grilled or baked salmon, gives you necessary fats that can help your body with tissue repair. Chicken casseroles, baked turkey or tender pot roast offer you protein, which your body needs both during and after treatments. Other protein options include beans, which you can use as a main lunch or dinner dish, or vegetarian meat-substitutes such as soy burgers. Healthy side dishes include cooked or raw vegetables, whole-wheat bread, fruit, whole-wheat spaghetti or green salads. If you are losing weight, add calories from milkshakes, regular fat yogurt, salad dressings and cheese to your diet.
If you suffer from certain types of cancer, such as leukemia, diet recommendations may include avoiding raw or undercooked foods, as well as unpasteurized dairy products due to a compromised immune system. You should also avoid eating foods at social situations because of the potential for bacterial contamination. Additionally, if you have diabetes, heart disease or cholesterol problems, your doctor or nutritionist will likely develop an individualized eating plan for you. A diabetic needs a diet to balance blood sugar, while those suffering from heart disease or cholesterol problems may need to follow low-fat, low-cholesterol diets.
- University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center: Managing Eating Problems
- National Cancer Institute: What You Should Know About Cancer Treatment, Eating Well and Eating Problems
- Cancer Treatment Centers of America: Leukemia Treatments -- Nutrition Therapy
- National Cancer Institute: Lists of Foods and Drinks