Healthy Alternatives and Meal Tips during COVID-19

Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet is essential for cancer patients undergoing treatment, as well as survivors.  With the uncertainty of the types of food available in stores during this time, we’ve put together some suggestions and meal tips to consider. The following information was provided by Vadel Shivers MS, RDN, LDN and Lindsay Huffman, RDN, LDN, two dietitians at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.

Try to maintain your diet and follow a routine, if possible.

  • Due to the current supply changes in grocery stores, it may be hard to maintain your diet. Aim to consume breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, dinner, and an evening snack. Try to stick to a simple eating routine, such as eating around the same time and snacking between.

Protein sources can be useful during this time.

  • Protein can help you maintain your immunity. Dried beans and peas are easy to store and contain significant levels of plant-based protein. Nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds) and seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin, and sunflower) can provide a quick boost of energy when consumed as snacks. Lean meats such as canned chicken or canned tuna can be good alternatives when fresh meats are not available. Eggs are easy to find and can be prepared in a variety of ways.

Frozen foods are just as nutritious as fresh.

  • Most stores have a bigger selection of frozen foods versus fresh. Frozen fruits and vegetables are an easy alternative and are packed with nutrients. Frozen foods have high levels of nutrients because they are packaged at the peak of freshness. Frozen vegetables high in Vitamin A (sweet potato, broccoli, carrots, spinach) can be steamed or added to soups. Frozen fruit high in Vitamin C (oranges, strawberries, blueberries, pineapples) can be thawed and consumed or blended into smoothies. Frozen seafood can provide a great source of zinc.

Choose whole-grain foods and snacks.

  • For high-fiber diets, whole grains breads, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta are the best options. Whole grain cereal and bars can serve as a quick and filling snack. Other alternatives include barley, quinoa, buckwheat and millet.

Try to cook some meals with new ingredients or healthier substitutions.

  • Try cooking with easy to find low-sodium seasonings and spices. Consider using parsley, oregano, garlic or turmeric in recipes. If you can’t find specific ingredients for certain meals, try to look for healthy substitutes or try a new recipe. Make sure to stick to the types of foods recommended by your dietitian or

Stay Hydrated

  • Drinking plenty of hydrating fluids can help your immune system stay strong and reduce fatigue. Avoid beverages containing excessive amounts of sugar and caffeine.

Aim for nutritional balance, but allow yourself some flexibility, especially during this time.

  • Try not to stock up on one type of food as your tolerance may change during treatment. Try to include a variety of items from all food groups. Make an effort to decrease or avoid foods that aren’t helpful to your body, but realize that “unhealthy” foods are sometimes allowed. Be sure to consult with your dietitian or physician before making major dietary changes.

Every nutrition plan is different for each cancer patient, so knowing your specific plan is essential to maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet. If you need assistance or need to speak with a dietitian or your physician, please call your nearest Mary Bird Perkins location or click here.


For more ideas, check out the following resources:

Coronavirus grocery list: