Consuming a well-balanced diet through all stages of your cancer journey can be beneficial on your road to recovery. The best way to ensure you get the right amount of and variety of nutrients is through a well-balanced diet that contains lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and more.
Here are some tips to achieve a balanced diet:
- Prioritize protein. Choose lean meats like chicken, turkey, and fish. If you have trouble remembering which meats are lean, remember, “less legs are lean!” Chickens and turkeys have two legs, and fish have none. A recipe for lean meat! You can also find protein-rich foods in eggs, nuts, nut butters, beans, and soy foods. Low fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese or any dairy substitute are good sources of protein as well.
- Go for the good fats. Choose healthier fats such as, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
- Color your plate. Consume at least 5 servings of whole fruits and vegetables every day. Antioxidants can be found in fruits and vegetables that help fight against cancer. For greater benefits, choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be cooked for patients with a weakened immune system.
- Opt for healthy carbohydrates and fiber. The right kind of carbs and fiber can help keep energy levels up when sickness or treatment can bring on fatigue. Good sources of whole grain foods include oatmeal, whole wheat breads, brown rice, and whole grain pastas.
- Limit sweets and added sugars. Avoid drinks and food that provide little nutritional benefit and take place of other foods that are better for you.
- Stay hydrated. Aim to drink 64 ounces of water daily. Avoid drinking large amounts of caffeine and drink alcohol in moderation, if at all – both of these can contribute to dehydration and provide no beneficial nutrients.
Unintentional weight loss with certain types of cancer and treatments is possible, so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Monitor your weight closely. Consult with your care team if you are losing more than 1-2 pounds per week consistently. Following the tips above, try eating small, frequent meals throughout the day. Aim to eat 5-6 smaller meals about every three hours each day. This helps not only maintain a healthy weight, but can also help combat nausea that you may experience as a treatment-related side effects.
When undergoing treatment, the immune system is weakened from chemotherapy. It is vital to reduce exposure and avoid unnecessary infection and illness during this time. Try to keep everything that enters your body as well as the environment that surrounds it as clean as possible. This also means making sure food is cooked thoroughly and stored properly.
Here are a few simple tips to follow when handling food:
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling or eating any food. Make sure to be deliberate in washing finger nails and backs of the hands.
- Always keep raw and cooked foods separate whether you are cooking or shopping.
- When cooking or preparing meals, keep separate utensils and cutting boards for raw meats and eggs. When you are done preparing raw meat and eggs with them, wash them in hot soapy water. Have a separate cutting board designated for fruits and vegetables as well.
- Place raw meats in plastic bags and away from other foods when shopping.
- Store meat and eggs at the bottom of the fridge to avoid any dripping or leaking liquid on other foods underneath them.
- When cooking meat, use a food thermometer to ensure food are cooked to their proper temperature.
- Don’t let food sit out. Put any leftover food in the refrigerator immediately.
Lastly and most importantly, you are special and unique and so is your cancer journey, so if you are having difficulties following the suggestions above, consult with a certified dietitian on what nutritional plan is right for you and your cancer journey.