Pictured Recipe: Spinach & Cheese Breakfast Skillet
Many people who undergo cancer treatment find that they face eating challenges. Foods may seem unappealing or not taste like they used to, and changes in energy levels can make it hard to eat at all on some days. But eating regular nutritious meals and snacks is more important than ever during treatment.
One thing to keep in mind is that every person is different—there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to eating when you have cancer. Allow yourself some grace as you figure out what your body needs. Someone with a more aggressive form of cancer, like metastatic breast cancer, or a more aggressive treatment plan will likely have different needs than someone with early stage cancer or someone undergoing a less aggressive treatment plan.
Here are some tips to help you overcome common eating challenges, to help your body get the nutrients it needs to heal and get stronger.
Pictured Recipe: Raspberry Overnight Muesli
Protein helps your body repair damaged cells, prevent infections and slow weight and muscle loss—all important for optimizing your treatment. For a little extra protein, sprinkle nuts, crumbled hard-boiled eggs or cheese onto casseroles or vegetables; boost sauces with dry milk or protein powder; add beans to soups and salads. Snack on nuts, yogurt, cheese, hard-boiled eggs and protein bars.
Pictured Recipe: Herbal Chamomile Health Tonic
Fever, vomiting or diarrhea can make you dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water handy and sip frequently. Decaf tea and coffee are also great choices, and fluid-rich foods like watermelon, tomatoes and soup all count too. Go easy on sugary drinks.
Pictured Recipe: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Protein Shake
If you don't feel much like eating, try to get some fresh air and physical activity, which may boost your hunger level. Take small portions, which won't seem so overwhelming. Try a smoothie or some soup if you don't feel like solid foods. Make the most of mornings, when appetite and energy levels are often highest.
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Pictured Recipe: Creamy Lemon Chicken Parmesan
Radiation and chemotherapy can affect how food smells or tastes. Some people experience a metallic taste; others find that food tastes overly salty, sweet or bitter. Try new dishes, and play with spices. To lessen metallic taste, avoid canned foods, use plastic utensils and glass cookware and try adding a squeeze of lemon or a little vinegar. Tame bitter flavors with a bit of salt or sugar.
Pictured Recipe: Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
Dry mouth and a sore throat are common side effects of chemo or radiation. Try soft foods like pasta, soups, stews, yogurt, fruits and well-cooked vegetables and purees; moisten foods with gravies and sauces. Your health care team can help you with other solutions like soothing mouth rinses and "thickeners" to add to foods so they're easier to get down.
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Pictured Recipe: Cottage Cheese and Roasted Tomato Topped Potato
You may deal with one or more of the following gastrointestinal issues during your treatment.