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Live Well. Eat Well.

Cancer and Foods During Treatment - Part 2

As the new year starts, many people pick improved health as a goal or resolution, whether that is weight loss, getting to the gym, or stopping smoking. Since January hosts Cervical Health Awareness Month, this post - Part 2 – will focus on picking foods during treatment.

During Treatment

If you or a loved one does develop cancer, treatment and the cancer itself will affect how you feel. In terms of eating, individuals in treatment may find they have a lower interest in eating, changes in how foods taste, and altered energy to eat and cook. Still, this is the time to fuel your body with good nutrition.

The National Cancer Institute has recommendations that can help you manage these side effects of treatment.

  • Eat a healthy diet and ask for assistance. Not all of those with cancer will have changes in appetite or in how foods taste. Whether you notice changes or not, still work to eat healthy foods. If you find you are having trouble eating or are not sure where to start, talk with your doctor and ask to speak with a registered dietitian.
  • If you are losing weight, stock up on calories and protein. If you are noticing weight loss and having trouble eating, pick foods that will supply calories and protein. This might be full-fat yogurt or ice-cream, peanut butter on toast, nutritional drinks, or anything that sounds appealing.
  • If you are gaining weight, focus on leaner foods and fruits and veggies. If you are gaining weight with treatment, look to switch your food options. Buy fat-free and low-fat dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk), pick more fruits and veggies (which are lower in calories), and serve yourself slightly smaller portions. Adding in exercise can help, and may give you energy through treatment. You do not need to lose weight quickly; go slowly.
  • Match foods with your symptoms. If you are nauseous or vomiting, you could become dehydrated. Taking small sips of water, milk, sport drinks, and other drinks you find tasty can help keep you hydrated and may provide calories. If you have mouth sores, pick soft foods (applesauce, yogurt, eggs) and serve foods cold, since hot temperature foods can hurt. If you notice you do not tolerate lactose (a sugar in dairy foods), try the recipe at the end of this post. These are only examples, and you may have other symptoms too. A registered dietitian can help find some options that work for you.


Lactose-Free Double Chocolate Pudding (Serves 2)

This recipe is a lactose-free pudding. Notice it is also high in calories, and would be useful for individuals who have lost weight.

1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup soy, rice, nondairy creamer, or lactose-free milk
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (1 ounce each)
1 tsp vanilla extract
    1. Combine cornstarch and sugar into a saucepan.
    2. Add just enough soy milk to dissolve cornstarch and sugar. Add the rest of the milk. Cook over medium heat until warm.
    3. Melt chocolate in a separate bowl or saucepan and stir into milk mixture. Continue cooking until mixture is thick and comes to a boil.
    4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool.
      Nutritional analysis per serving: 360 calories, 17g fat, 70mg sodium, 45g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 8g protein

      Adapted from: National Cancer Institute. Eating Hints: Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment. Support for People With Cancer. 2011.

      Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.