Monday, April 25, 2022

Nutrition and Cancer: Where to Start?

by Lauren Galush, Dietetic Intern St. Luke Community Healthcare 

Lauren Galush
Nutrition is important for everyone, but especially those living with cancer. Cancer treatments can cause symptoms that make eating difficult, such as nausea, loss of appetite, change in taste, or a sore mouth. If these symptoms develop people often lose weight without trying. For this reason this is not a time for dieting or trying to lose weight. Paying special attention to your nutrition is key to keeping your body strong and healthy during and after treatment. If one is available to you, speaking with a Registered Dietitian (RD) can ensure you’re getting enough of the right things. If you find yourself with any complications that make eating difficult, following some of the suggestions below may help. 

Loss of Appetite (anorexia):

  • Focus on foods that are high in protein and calories. Even if you are only able to eat a few bites, this will ensure you get more “bang for your buck.” 
  • Sneak protein and calorie sources in where you can. This may look like adding protein powder to oatmeal or having full-fat dairy products
  • Eat protein portions of your meal first to ensure you’re getting enough protein 
  • Eat foods that smell good to you 
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals during the day, such as three small meals and three snacks. 
  • If solid foods don’t sound appetizing, drink milkshakes, smoothies, or nutrition drinks/shakes
  • Have your favorite foods on hand so they are ready to eat when you’re hungry 
  • Be active if you’re able. Even a 15-minute walk can stimulate your appetite 

Nausea or Vomiting: 

  • Eat foods that sound good to you- don’t force yourself to eat foods that make you feel sick
  • Avoid eating your favorite foods when you feel sick, so you don’t associate them with sickness
  • Eat foods that are soft, bland, and easy on your stomach (ex: white toast, plain yogurt, broth)
  • Avoid food or drinks with strong smells
  • Eat five to six small meals in a day rather than three large meals 
  • Sit upright for an hour after eating
  • Wear clothes that are loose and comfortable

Dry Mouth: 

  • Eat foods that are easy to swallow. Moisten them with sauces, gravies, or salad dressings if you need.
  • Have foods/drinks that are very sweet or tart (ex: lemonade)- this will help make more saliva
  • Chew gum or suck on hard candy, ice chips, or popsicles 
  • Avoid foods that hurt your mouth, such as spicy, sour, salty, hard, or crunchy foods. 

Mouth Sores: 

  • Eat softer foods, such as milkshakes, pudding, or scrambled eggs
  • Suck on ice chips or popsicles to numb your mouth 
  • Avoid foods that may irritate your mouth: 
    • Acidic foods- tomatoes, oranges, lemons, limes
    • Spicy foods
    • Salty foods
    • Raw vegetables
    • Sharp or crunchy foods
    • Alcoholic beverages 

Taste Changes: 

  • Try poultry, eggs, and cheese instead of red meat. Sometimes eating meat with something sweet can help
  • Add spices and sauces to foods
  • Use sugar-free lemon drops, gum drops, or mints if there is a metallic or bitter taste in your mouth
  • Use plastic utensils instead of metal ones

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