Eating Better With Cancer Part 2: Foods to Eat When You’re Feeling Sick

Cancer patient eating healthy food

Eating better with cancer is possible – even when food seems completely unappealing. We’ve collected hundreds of helpful products to help you manage your diet throughout cancer, and we’ve also written a comprehensive guide to eating during cancer treatment. 

If you’ve read part 1 of our Eating Better With Cancer series, you’ll know that it’s best to prioritise two things: keeping your calories up during treatment, and doing what feels best for you. 

Fuelling your body is an important part of recovery and healing, so try to focus on ways to make this possible: eating when you want to (even if that means eating outside “regular” meal times), eating what sounds good to you (even if that means brownies or a hamburger), and eating in smaller portions multiple times a day. 

If you’re dealing with a specific symptom or side-effect, or are just wondering how to make the most of a “good” food day, we have several food suggestions for you to try. 

Eating Better With Cancer: Try These Foods

In general, experts and community members agree that these are the best foods to eat throughout cancer treatment:

  • High protein options like fish, eggs, dairy, beans or meat.
  • Foods with healthy fats like avocado, fish, olive oil, and peanut butter.
  • Other fats like butter, sugar, cream, honey, or cheese. Use these foods to round out your meal and add sneak in extra calories. Don’t worry if these options don’t seem healthy – while you’re feeling ill, the goal is just to keep up your calories. You can return to a healthy diet once your side effects are under control.
  • Fruits and vegetables of all colours and sizes.

Check with your doctor, and pay attention to what feels good. You may have specific dietary restrictions or recommendations depending on the type and stage of cancer you have.

If you’re looking for specific advice to help manage a side effect, we have a few suggestions!

Try These Foods During Cancer Treatment If…

You feel too tired to cook:

  • Pre-made foods, frozen meals, or meal replacement drinks.
  • Fruits and vegetables of all colours and sizes.

You feel nauseated:

  • Oatmeal, crackers, plain pasta, rice and noodles.
  • Ginger and peppermint. Try teas, gums, and chews.
  • Cold foods, and bland foods without much scent.
  • Fluids of all kinds. Keep water or high-calorie drinks on-hand. Flat coca-cola or ginger ale might help to minimise nausea. (Just try not to drink too close to meals – it’s better to fill up on calorie-rich foods when you can than to fill your stomach with liquid).

 

Your sense of taste and smell has changed:

  • Whatever tastes good. We mean it! What you feel like eating will change over the course of your treatment, and it’s okay to listen to your body and eat whatever sounds pleasant in the moment.

 

You have dry or sore mouth:

  • Aim for soft foods, puddings and canned fruit and custard.
  • Add sauces and gravies to your foods, and avoid hot spices or sticky foods (like bread, chocolate, or peanut butter).

 

You’re constipated:

  • Head for high-fibre foods and lots and lots of liquids.
  • Try adding flaxseed (linseed) to oatmeal, or eating berries to boost your fibre intake.
  • You should also speak to your doctor about this, as constipation caused by medication won’t be improved with fibre alone.

 

You have diarrhoea:

  • Eat BRAT. BRAT stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. These foods are bland and can help to settle your stomach.

 

You have no appetite:

  • Eat in small, regular portions.
  • Try protein drinks, milkshakes, smoothies, tea or soups. Sometimes, sipping on a drink is easier than eating a meal. Keep some nice liquid options and straws on-hand for the days when solid food is off the menu.

In General, Avoid These Foods During Cancer Treatment: 

  • High-fat or greasy fried foods. Even at the best of times, meals full of fat and grease can upset your stomach and leave you feeling ill.
  • Spicy foods. It’s likely that foods with strong smells and tastes will be less appealing than plainer, blander food options. (This won’t be true for everyone, so do what feels right!)
  • Your favourite foods – at least right before chemo treatment. Some people recommend avoiding your favourite meals before a round of chemo, as nausea can put you off whatever you’ve eaten most recently.
  • Magic “cure-all” cancer diets. Some people claim to have found wonderful diets that “kill cancer cells” and “shrink tumours.” There is no scientific evidence to support these claims. For now, you’re better off eating a healthy and balanced diet, and following advice from your doctors and nurses.

As always, listen to your doctor and your body. Only you know what feels best for you.

 

And take a look at these helpful products:

EatBetterWith Cookbook The Time to Eat! Kit Protein Ball Co. Balls
Eat Better With Cancer Cookbook Image of Time to Eat! Kit Image of Protein Ball Co. Protein Balls

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