Individual cancer diagnosis and type of treatment may require changes in the diet. In addition, fatigue, information overload, and the desire of family and friends to provide assistance can create considerable stress for the patient.
This section provides information on modifying your diet, planning meals and snacks and communicating needs to family and friends. These measures, while not always a remedy for stress, can help provide solutions to common problems surrounding nutrition and cancer treatment.
Calorie and protein needs frequently increased during cancer and cancer treatment. Boosting these nutrients can be challenging, especially if your taste has changes or you have decreased appetite. Below are hints from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that can help you to increase protein and calories on a daily basis.
Depending on treatment and side effects, it may be necessary to change the texture and taste of your food or avoid foods that produce an offensive odor. Included below are tips to assist you in this process:
For additional tips on food preparation and ways to increase calories and protein, take a look at the National Cancer Institute's Eating Hints Booklet
Prior to treatment, think about the expected side effects of your treatment and the types of foods that you will likely tolerate. Using this information, make a list of easy-to-prepare items as well as oral nutrition supplements. Create a shopping list that includes these foods and print several copies. As treatment begins, change the list to include foods that you tolerate and enjoy. It is important to keep this list handy for any family, friends, and caregivers that may be assisting you with your cooking and shopping during treatment.
For additional assistance with creating menus and shopping lists, talk with a registered dietitian or consult some of the below online resources:
Foodonthetable.com - a free online tool to plan meals and create shopping lists based on grocery stores in your area.
USDA Healthier You Food Shopping List - a pre-made grocery list that allows you to check boxes of items you wish to include on your shopping list.
American Institute for Cancer Research, Foods that Fight Cancer - a list of foods that are known to have cancer fighting properties.
The Cancer Fighting Kitchen - a cookbook filled with recipes that include foods that are known to have cancer fighting properties; addresses modifying taste, texture, and consistency for side effects.
Food and nutrition can be a significant source of stress during cancer and treatment. Communicate to your family, friends and caregivers your nutrition goals during this time, as well as what role you want them to play.
Patients and caregivers have the same end goal of health and improved quality of life. This underlying goal can get lost in the everyday push to maintain body weight and nutrient adequacy. The appetite and preferences of someone undergoing cancer treatment is often unreliable at best - while are spending time shopping and preparing foods, patients might find that their appetite has changed. As a result, they are no longer able to enjoy the food that has been painstakingly prepared for them. For this reason, it is recommended that household meals be prepared with input from the patient, but that snacks and convenience food items like canned soup, frozen meals, and oral nutrition supplements be on hand should the patient change their mind about what they are able to eat.
Open communication will help minimize the stress surrounding nutrition and cancer. Rather than hold feelings inside, discuss needs and wants openly. It can also be helpful to seek the assistance of mental health professionals and social workers to navigate the strain of disease on relationships.
For more information on coping and emotional support during chemotherapy, ask for a referral to a mental health professional and/or social worker during your treatment. You can find additional information at the National Cancer Institute's Coping and Support.
Due to variation in specific illness and treatment plans, eating practices of individuals diagnosed with cancer should be assessed throughout the continuum of care. Request an appointment with a registered dietitian at your treatment facility for a comprehensive nutrition assessment and tailored nutrition therapy plan to reflect your personal treatment goals.
If you are a patient at Taussig Cancer Institute at Cleveland Clinic, you can call (216) 444-6833 to schedule an appointment with the dietitian.
If you are a patient at Radiation Oncology at Cleveland Clinic, you can call (216) 444-5571 to schedule an appointment with a dietitian.
If you are not a Cleveland Clinic patient, you can call 216.444.3046 to schedule an appointment with a Cleveland Clinic dietitian.
If you are interested in corresponding with a Cleveland Clinic dietitian, but are unable to have an in-person appointment, we have two options for online, distance nutrition consultation services.