- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. As fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes or more of moderate, or for 30 minutes or more of vigorous, physical activity every day.
- Eat at least five portions/servings (at least 400 g) of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and of fruits every day.
- Try to incorporate relatively unprocessed grains and/or pulses (legumes) with every meal.
- Limit refined starchy foods.
- If you eat red meat, consume less than 500 g (18 oz) a week, and avoid processed meats. ‘Processed meat’ refers to meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or addition of chemical preservatives.
- Avoid salt-preserved, salted, or salty foods; try to preserve foods without using salt. Limit consumption of processed foods with added salt to ensure an intake of less than 6 g (2.4 g sodium) a day.
- Consume energy-dense foods sparingly. Energy-dense foods have an energy content of more than about 225-275 kcal per 100 g. Relatively unprocessed energy-dense foods, such as nuts and seeds, have not been shown to contribute to weight gain when consumed as part of typical diets, and these and many vegetable oils are valuable sources of nutrients.
- Avoid sugary drinks, this principally refers to drinks with added sugars but fruit juices should also be limited.
- Consume ‘fast foods’ sparingly, if at all. The term ‘fast foods’ refers to readily available convenience foods that tend to be energy-dense and consumed frequently and in large.
- Limit your consumption of alcoholic drinks no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
Nutrition for the Person Undergoing Treatment
Eating well during your cancer treatment is important as it will maintain your energy level and help you stay strong. Cancer treatment affects each person differently and it can alter the way food tastes to you and how your body processes it. It’s very important for you to speak with your doctor about your diet, as you may have special requirements. Your doctor may also refer you to a nutritionist or dietician who can help tailor a diet to your particular treatment and dietary needs. Here are some general guidelines for eating a balanced diet and some tips for combatting common side effects of treatment.
- Avoid extreme diets and focus on eating balanced meals that give you a better chance of getting key nutrients.
- Choose whole grain breads and cereal
- Fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits
- Try eating a few meatless meals each week
- Try to avoid highly processed or high-fat foods.
Lack of Appetite:
- Don’t wait until you’re hungry to eat, try to eat every few hours.
- Eat several small snacks over the course of the day rather than 3 large meals.
- Choose high-calorie, nutrient-rich foods like nuts, beans, avocados, and seeds.
- Keep your favourite foods nearby in case you have a sudden urge to eat.
- Try to drink in between meals rather than during meals, as drinking fluid can make you feel fuller faster.
- Try drinking high-calorie, high-protein smoothies or milkshakes.
- Try to make your meals look appealing by adding colourful garnishes like cherry tomatoes, parsley or carrots.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Try to eat at the same time each day.
- If it’s OK with your doctor (make sure to check) include high-fibre foods in your diet such as beans and legumes, vegetables and fresh fruit.
- Only use laxatives as directed by your doctor.
- Drink plenty of water, or mild, clear, non-carbonated liquid to keep yourself hydrated.
- Avoid high-fibre foods.
- Avoid greasy, fatty, spicy or very sweet food.
- Try eating bland foods such as bananas, rice and apple slices.
- Contact your doctor immediately if you are getting dehydrated from severe diarrhoea.
- Drink plenty of water or clear fluids, even if you are vomiting.
- Try eating small meals spread over the day.
- Avoid greasy, spicy or fried foods.
- Choose bland foods without strong odours.
- Eat dry foods like crackers or toast.
- Talk to your doctor about methods to make it easier to swallow, such as thickening or thinning fluids.
- Puree foods to make them easier to swallow. Try drinking smoothies with fruit and yogurt. Try eating nutrient rich soups.
- Avoid rough-texture foods like crackers or popcorn.
Weakened Immune System:
Some cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, can weaken your immune system temporarily. In this case it’s important to ensure that your food is properly preserved and not contaminated.
- Check expiration dates to avoid spoilage.
- Cook all meats until they are well done.
- Ensure that all food prep services are cleaned with hot, soapy water.
- Use a separate cutting board for raw meat and fish. Make sure it is thoroughly cleaned after use.
- Rinse and scrub fruits and vegetables thoroughly, even if they have a rind (such as melons). Avoid food that cannot be cleaned easily like raspberries.
- Throw away eggs with cracked shells.
- Contact your doctor, or the Oncology Centre, immediately if you are unwell or have a fever.
The American Cancer Society has created an extensive guide covering nutrition for before, during and after cancer treatment. Click here to access it.