By Dr. Bhavna Gandhi, Dietitian/Nutritionist
Nutrition is an important part of treatment, recovery, and prevention of cancer. Some people feel like eating more and some find their appetite becoming less at the time of chemotherapy. Hence, it varies from person to person. It is important to note that eating well will help the body heal and recover.
If the patient does not feel hungry, eating often and little can be a good option. In this case, patients can try to have five to six small meals instead of having three big meals each day. If they don’t feel like eating, then drinking smoothies, milkshakes, soup or juice once, and small meals can help them in providing the required nutrition.
If a patient can do exercise or some physical activity, he/she should try it as these physical activities can help in increasing the person’s appetite. One should also be careful of consuming too much liquid before or at the time of meals as it reduces the appetite.
- Include low-fat drinks and foods.
- Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. This will help in maintaining a healthy and balanced weight.
- It is suggested to eat light food on the chemotherapy day.
- Eating slowly with small portions every few hours is best.
- Bland foods seem to work best before or at the time of chemotherapy.
- The patient must carry a water bottle along with him/her and fill it with his/her favorite beverage.
Some examples of healthy meals are poached egg and toast, plain or fruited yogurt, milk and cereal (try soy or lactic milk), fresh fruit and cottage cheese, chicken soup with saltine crackers, and a toasted bagel with a very small amount of peanut butter. At the time of chemotherapy, a patient can take a bland snack along with him.
He/she should try the above-mentioned foods as well as snack with yogurts, low acid juices like grape, apple and fruit nectars, and fruits like bananas and crackers.
- Avoid sugary drinks.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid skipping meals during chemotherapy.
- Avoid eating spicy and fatty foods.
- Avoid acidic foods that might be irritating to the digestive tract.
- Hot foods should be avoided after chemotherapy because they could lead to a more pronounced odor.
After chemotherapy, patients should drink fluids repeatedly. This will eliminate some of the side effects of chemotherapy and will prevent dehydration. Eat blander, lower-fat foods in small portions throughout the day. Try colder or cool foods, especially when a patient feels nauseated which is a common problem for patients during the chemotherapy treatment sessions.
Herbal teas work best to settle the stomach. Water is best to consume in liquid. However, there are various other sources of fluids available to consume such as fruit nectars, weak black teas, grape and apple juice, ginger and mint tear, gelatin, Gatorade, low-salt broth, and many more.