General Nutrition Guidelines During Cancer Treatment

Careful food choices may help support your immune system’s fight against cancer. The foods you choose to eat during active cancer treatment will vary according to any side effects you may be having. Overall, try to make food choices that give you enough calories, protein, and nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and fluids. Calories will help you maintain your weight. Protein will help you rebuild tissues that cancer treatment may harm. Nutrients and fluids are vital for your body’s functioning.

The tips from the National Cancer Institute may be helpful if you have problems eating or a loss of appetite during cancer treatment:

  • Eat small, frequent meals (every 1 to 2 hours).

  • Eat high-protein and high-calorie foods including snacks.

  • Keep snacks on hand. Good choices are peanut butter crackers, nuts, granola bars, or dried fruit. 

  • Stay away from empty calorie foods, such as soda.

  • To prevent nausea and improve your appetite, do not drink liquids with your meals.

  • Try to eat when you are feeling the best, no matter what time of day.

  • Try high-calorie, high-protein drinks when you do not feel like eating.

  • Try to increase your appetite through light exercise

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about appetite stimulants, if needed.

  • Add extra calories and protein to food using foods, like butter, skim milk powder, honey, or brown sugar.

  • Take your medicines with high-calorie fluids.

  • Eat foods at room temperature.

  • Stay away from spicy foods or foods with strong odors.