6 Key Facts to Know About Eating During Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatment can take a toll on the body, but there are many ways to help counter side effects, including good eating habits. This is why Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Center’s dieticians help patients stay on-track with their nutrition during and after treatment. Here are six essential facts about nutrition that all cancer patients should know.
Nutrition acts as “ammunition” for the body
Nutrition assists the body so it can withstand the side effects of cancer treatment, improve energy levels, aid in recovery and healing and enhance survival after treatment. Nutrition can also play a vital role in preventing malnutrition, reducing treatment breaks, avoiding unplanned hospitalizations and halting disease progression.
Focus on overall diet
Although the term “super-foods” is widely used, there is no single food or food group that can protect against or cure cancer. Many studies have shown that a variety of fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and seafood (consumed in adequate proportions) can be very helpful to the body. Some recommended foods that are high in phytochemicals and antioxidants include apples, blueberries, broccoli and cruciferous vegetables, carrots, cherries, cranberries, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, flaxseed, garlic and squash.
Consume frequent meals and snacks
The outline of meals should be: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner and evening snack. Patients should aim to consume at least three to five servings of non-starchy vegetables, two to three servings of fruit, six servings of whole grains, two to three servings of plant and animal-based proteins and healthy fats (olives/olive oil, avocados, fish and walnuts). Cancer patients may require anywhere from 48-80 ounces (or more) of hydrating fluids daily.
Allow some flexibility
Food tolerance may change during treatment, so don’t stock up on one particular food or food group. Make an effort to decrease or avoid foods that aren’t helpful to your body, but realize that “unhealthy” foods are sometimes allowed. Previous dietary restrictions may require modification during cancer treatment.
Develop a support system
One way to do this is to seek the help of a registered dietician on your treatment team. Dieticians can help provide advice on how to prepare for treatment, management of possible side effects, recommend specific eating patterns, provide recipes, suggest credible online resources and help make referrals to additional services that may be beneficial during treatment. As well as seeking the dietician’s help, enlist family and friends to keep you on track with eating, hydration and meal preparation.
Every plan will be unique
Each person’s nutrition needs must be evaluated and assessed based on the number and types of treatments, height, weight, activity level, eating habits, symptoms and other factors. In some cases, the type of cancer, treatment-related symptoms and medications may require adjustments in calories, protein, nutrient or fluid needs due to weight gain or weight loss.
Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Center is excited to introduce its newest dietician, Allison Cazenave. A Louisiana native, Allison graduated from Nicholls State and interned at Southern University and A&M College. In this role, she will help cancer patients follow a healthy diet during and after treatment, tailoring a nutrition plan specifically for their unique needs. To learn more about nutritional services offered at Mary Bird Perkins TGMC click here.