What To Eat During Chemotherapy: Tips For Eating Well Throughout Cancer Treatment

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When enduring chemotherapy, patient’s appetites can take a huge hit. 

“For many people living with cancer, their relationship with food can be difficult; food can quickly go from being enjoyable to frustrating and disappointing,” says dietician and Bupa health coach, Rachael Eden.

To coincide with World Cancer Day, Eden has shared a selection of tricks and tips to make sure you eat well during cancer treatment.

From using plastic knives and forks (to avoid that horrid metallic taste), to opting for chicken and turkey instead of red meat, here’s what she had to say. 

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“People receiving treatment are often unsure what the best diet is for them as food can be a complex issue, and their loved ones are unsure what they can do to help,” says Eden. 

But there are ways to stay on track. 

“A healthy, balanced diet can help reduce the risk of becoming unwell again and helps retain fitness for treatment,” she explains. “It can, however, be very difficult to maintain the right diet – especially when it feels like it’s lost all of the enjoyment.”

Here are her top tips for maintaining a healthy (and enjoyable) diet throughout chemotherapy:

1. Stay hydrated.

2. Eat soup. It is easy to make and you can help boost your energy intake by: including meats such as bacon or chicken, adding some plain noodles or croutons, or having cheese on toast as a side.

3. Opt for whole milk with added milk powder rather than skimmed milk.

4. Eat nutrient-dense foods such as avocado and seeds or nuts to keep strength up. 

5. Instead of eating plain white bread, opt for wholemeal bread with grains and seeds in it to bump up the nutritional value.

6. Eat smaller meals packed with food high in calories if you have a reduced appetite.

7. Try adding grains, nuts, sugar and fats into meals to help boost energy.

8. If your taste has changed, try eating cold or chilled foods rather than warm or hot dishes. 

9. Some people undergoing cancer treatment find that foods can taste too strong or metallic. This is because the spread of chemotherapy drugs during treatment can damage taste receptors and cause taste changes. Red meats are more prone to tasting metallic, so stick to serving white meat like chicken or turkey. Try cooking the meat in sweeter-tasting condiments like sweet and sour sauce or even vinegar.

10. Eat with a plastic knife and fork rather than metal cutlery to help reduce the metallic taste.

11. Often people undergoing treatment find that plain-tasting foods are easier to stomach. Try adding mash potato or plain noodles to your meals. For your mash potatoes, use whole milk that is boosted with milk powder to increase the calorie intake, and for your noodles, try adding some vegetables or white meat for a more substantial meal.

12. Nausea is a common issue for people undergoing treatment. Although it’s tough, it’s important to try to maintain a regular eating pattern, even if it’s just eating a handful of crisps or nuts during the day.

13. Fizzy drinks can also help with the nausea and are high in sugar content, which can temporarily boost energy levels.

14. The smell of food could also cause nausea so try to reduce aromas when cooking or sitting down for a meal. When cooking, use an extractor fan to help eliminate aromas.

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