What, when, and how you eat can help to improve your response to cancer treatment and help ease burdensome symptoms and side effects. According to University of California, San Francisco, Dietitian Greta Macaire, MA, RD, CSO, consuming the proper nutrients can mean fewer complications, faster recovery, and improved strength and energy.
It can be challenging to prepare nutritious meals and snacks when you feel tired and weak. Your sense of taste may have changed. You may also be coping with nausea and/or diarrhea. All the more reasons to pay attention to what you eat, according to Greta Macaire, who presented a talk at a NETRF Patient Education Conference at Stanford University. Selecting the right foods may help you feel better and get better.
Talk to your treatment team about any changes in your diet. You will also want to make sure you carefully accommodate any dietary precautions you follow due to allergies, co-occurring illnesses, and medications. If you need help with an eating plan, and your treatment team does not include a registered dietitian, consider asking for a referral to a registered dietitian with a specialty in oncology nutrition.
Recipes for cancer patients
If you want to learn more about healthy eating during cancer care, there are several online resources, many featuring recipes, including
- American Institute of Cancer Research
- Cancer Nutrition Consortium
- National Cancer Institute
- Oncology Nutrition
- University of California, San Francisco
There are also a number of cookbooks published specifically for cancer patients. Greta likes the ones by Rebecca Katz.
Getting help with meal preparation
If people are offering to help with meals, don’t be shy about sharing a specific recipe with them. Or take advantage of someone’s visit by spending time in the kitchen preparing a meal for later. Ask for help with shopping too. Here’s a shopping list you can use to make it easier for you to send someone to the store. Also take advantage of your freezer. Freeze leftovers as individual portions in a plastic bag. Or, have entire meals ready-to-go for low-energy or treatment days. By asking for help and making nourishing yourself a priority, you can work towards healing through eating.
Sample menu for someone with Carcinoid Syndrome
- Oatmeal with cinnamon, chopped almonds, and unsweetened applesauce, herbal tea
- Leftover roasted free-range chicken with vegetables and brown rice
- Baked wild caught salmon with sweet potato and vegetables
- Plain Greek yogurt with blueberries
- Crackers with hummus
- Sliced apple with almond butter
- Boiled egg