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Nutrition & Diet for Cancer

A nutritious diet is essential for normal functioning of the human body. For a cancer patient it is even more important to eat well.

Why Nutritious Diet for Cancer Patients

Proper and adequate nourishment will help the body be strong so that it can cope with the side effects, which may occur as the treatment progresses.

Cancer weakens one’s immune system. A healthy diet enables the cancer patient to strengthen the body’s defenses and fight back infections. A healthy diet will also hasten healing of the body tissues that may be damaged during the course of the disease and its treatment

A registered dietitian can be one of the best sources of information about your diet. When contacting a NutritionVista dietitian, be sure to write down any questions before your appointment so you don't forget anything, and do ask the dietitian to repeat or explain anything that is not clear.

Cancer Diet - Pre-Treatment

You may need to change your diet to help build up your strength and withstand the effects of your cancer and its treatment.

All cancer treatments kill cancer cells. But in the process quite a few healthy cells also become damaged. The side effects are a result of the negative impact on healthy cells and tissue.
A pre treatment diet is critical to build up strength and immunity and will:
1. Improve current nutritional & health status.
2. Educate the patient on what side effects to expect and how to prepare for them.

Cancer Diet - During Treatment

Diet during cancer treatment is as important as before and after the cancer treatment. This must be individualized to address personal and cultural preferences and symptom-related needs of the individual patient.
This is what the NutritionVista dietitians excel at. They can customize your meal plans to suit your personal preferences and dietary requirements.
Purpose of Nutritional Care During Cancer Treatment
To ensure, conserve or restore nutritional status
To minimize food related discomfort associated with cancer and/or its treatment
To improve strength, well-being and quality of life
Sometimes, depending on how your body reacts to the treatment, the doctor may ask you to eat a clear liquid, soft or a regular diet. The chart below gives examples of foods included in these diets.
First Step - Clear liquids
Sports drinks
Juices/ coconut water
Clear citrus juices
Fruit ices
Strained lemonade
Clear, carbonated drinks
Weak tea
Clear, fat free broth
Strained vegetable broth
Second Step - Easy to Digest foods
Plain crackers
Instant hot cereal
Soft, angel food cake
All juices
Canned, peeled fruits and vegetables
Fish, skinless chicken
Strained blenderized, creamy soups
Milk, all types
White bread rolls
White rice, noodles,
Custard pudding
Plain milkshakes
Smooth icecream
Frozen yogurt
Third Step - Regular diet
All foods you eat regularly, except those that cause gas, constipation, diarrhea, etc.
Try to eat more frequent, but much smaller portions.
Eat when you are hungry, even if it is not your regular mealtime.

Cancer Diet - Post Treatment

Most side effects disappear shortly after cancer treatment. The patient should gradually be able to resume a normal diet.

If all side effects subside and a healthy body weight is maintained, you may start looking into adopting a healthy eating habit. Get on to foods that will ensure you are not only getting a balanced diet but a diet that is rich in nutrients, with adequate servings of fruits, vegetables, dairy and healthy fats to provide the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Many studies show benefits with higher intake of some antioxidants. Despite this, most randomized controlled trials have not found antioxidant supplementation to be effective.

NutritionVista recommends that cancer patients focus primarily on a balanced diet of recommended servings from each food group. We do not advocate cancer patients taking vitamin and mineral supplements, as these can often trigger negative responses if not taken appropriately. Often these very supplements are not approved by the CDC or the NIH, and as such must be avoided. If and when you need multi vitamins or minerals to address a specific condition, your oncologist may or may not prescribe them on an as need basis ONLY.
How do you achieve a balanced diet?
Choose a variety of foods from each food group. Try to eat at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits and or juices and dark-green and yellow vegetables.
Eat plenty of high-fiber foods, such as whole grain breads and cereals.
Avoid salt-cured, smoked, and pickled foods.
Decrease the amount of fat in your meals by baking or broiling foods and not frying.
Choose low-fat milk and dairy products.
Avoid alcohol
If you've lost weight during cancer treatments and need to gain weight, include calorie-dense foods or high energy and high protein foods in the diet. Use the NV Nutritional Adequacy tool to monitor what you are eating, and how to improve your food intake for bettering your health.
This is where the NutritionVista dietitians can assist you, by working with your likes and dislikes, symptoms, physical needs, cultural preferences and carefully addressing any restrictions you might have and then personalizing menus that are best for you.

Cancer Diet - Treatment interactions

Therapeutic diets for co-existing diseases such as diabetes or coronary artery disease often need to be liberalized during cancer treatment in order to achieve adequate energy and protein intakes. Talk to your oncologist and the NV dietitians, so that the side effects of the treatment do not jeopardize your pre-existing conditions
Drug-nutrient interactions: Cancer patients may be treated with multiple drugs during the course of their care. Some foods or nutrients or nutritional supplements do not mix safely with certain drugs. As a result, the combination of these foods and drugs may reduce or change the effectiveness of the therapy or even cause life-threatening side effects. Discuss any pre-existing conditions so your oncologist and dietitian can work with you to create the most appropriate plan to cover all health issues.
What kind of foods should I eat to maintain my health and build immunity -
There is no single super food that contains all nutrients. It is a good idea to eat a variety of foods to ensure you get adequate nutrition. Every day include foods from all the food groups:
Grains: Include whole grains every day in your diet. Grains provide you with carbohydrates, soluble fiber and B vitamins. Carbohydrates give you the energy to carry on the daily tasks of living.
Meats/pulses: These foods will help you build and repair body tissue and also help you to fight infections. Lentils, legumes, eggs, poultry and fish give you protein. They also provide the body with energy and a variety of minerals and vitamins.
Fruits and Vegetables: Raw, cooked or as juices fruits and vegetables provide your body with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that your body needs.
Dairy: Milk, yogurt and cheese give your body proteins and carbohydrates. They are also the best sources of calcium in your diet.
You may be asked to eat high calorie and high protein foods like meats, puddings and milk shakes by your doctor/ dietitian. The single most important thing for you to do is to EAT. There may be days when your appetite is poor and many foods do not appeal to you. Try experimenting- change the form of the food e.g. if fruits are difficult to eat, puree them and add to yogurt; if the taste of milk is unappetizing, try eating cheese or add milk to soups to disguise the taste. You may have to cut back on intake of raw vegetables and whole grains if you have diarrhea. Include cooked, bland and soft vegetables or even add simple carbohydrates like rice and white flour (maida) to the cooked food during this time. In case you are unable to tolerate many foods, ask your oncologist about food supplements (such as Ensure or Resource) to meet the need for vitamins and minerals.
Use the chart below to help you choose a good variety of items from the different food groups
Food Group Suggested Daily Servings Example of a serving
Grains: Whole grain Breads/ Cereals/ Rice/ Chapattis 6-11 servings from this group. 1 slice of bread Or 1 chapatti (6” dia) Or ½ cup cooked rice/ pasta Or 1 idli/dosa Or ½ Cup cooked cereal Or ¼ Cup muesli Or ½ - ¾ Cup of other ready-to-eat cereals Or One 1-oz. muffin
Meat/ legumes/ Pulses 3 servings ½ Cup cooked dal (thick) Or 1 Cup cooked dal (thin) Or ¾ Cup cooked lentil Or 1 oz of cooked meat/poultry/fish Or 1 hen’s egg Or 1 tbsp peanut butter Or ¼ Cup cottage cheese Or 1 oz of other cheese (Mozzarella/Cheddar/feta/Swiss)
Fruits and Vegetables 5-9 servings ½ Cup 100% fruit/vegetable juice Or 1 medium fruit (Apple/Pear/Guava/yellow banana/Orange/sweet lime) Or 1 Cup cubed fruit (Papaya/musk melon/watermelon) Or ½ Pomegranate arils Or ¼ Cup dried fruit Or ½ Cup canned fruit Or 1 Cup raw vegetables Or ½ Cup cooked vegetable
Milk/ Yogurt/ Cheese 2-3 servings 1 Cup (240 ml) milk Or 2/3 cup yogurt Or 1 glass (250 ml) thin buttermilk
Fats/ Oils/ Sweets Use sparingly. Use to increase calories in the diet. Use oils that are liquid at room temperature since they are a source of good fats. Beware sugars will give calories but very little else- it is better to use in small quantities only to improve taste. 1 tsp oil/butter/ghee Or 1 tbsp mayonnaise/salad dressing Or 6 Almonds Or 2 tbsp sour cream/cream cheese Or 2 tbsp avocado
1 tbsp sugar/jaggery/honey/ jam/jelly/pancake syrup/maple syrup Or 1 cookie (3”)
We recommend you refer to the NV Recommended Menu Plans for Cancer on your dashboard for more specific suggestions for consuming high quality calories, and nutrients. These NV plans follow basic CDC dietary guidelines by food groups. However, they have been adapted to be more practical by addressing portion sizes, meal times, as well as to counteract debilitating side effects. The NutritionVista dietitians will help you customize these plans further.
EXAMPLES OF ENERGY DENSE FOODS. Energy (cals) Protein (g)
cheese & lettuce and tomato sandwich with whole wheat bread 286 7.5
roast chicken with potato & fresh veggies 198 6.8
fruit yogurt low fat 1/2 cup 125 4.5
vegetable kichidi (rice, lentils and vegetables) 1/2 cup 240 4.2
chicken or lamb soup 48 7.8
grilled fish with potato, brocolli & tomato salsa or sauce 195 7.5
mushroom, tomato, capsicum omelette 182 8
soy wrap - roti with soychunks in tomato gravy 200 5
dried fruits - figs, raisins, dates 180 4
cold cereal with nuts & fruits 260 4.4
stuffed roti's with minced veggies/chicken or fish 210 3.8
egg or tofu with tomato, spring onions and capsicum scrambeled 205 6.3
bread pudding/ walnut & date pudding 198 4
drinking chocolate/hot chocolate 260 4
fruit custard 125 4.3
avacado smoothies 280 4.2
banana smoothie 400 6.5
potato / cauliflower.corn pureed in a soup 230 3.8
rabri/shrikhand/rice pudding 375 6.5
dried fruit laddu/ flax, sesame and peanut laddu 470 8.4
peanut butter & jelly sandwich with milk 555 10.2
cheese toast 1 slice 205 5.6
buttered popcorn 20g 107 1.1
peaches and cream 1/2 cup 90 7.25
honey & banana on buttered toast 1 slice 326 2.2
Ensure plus *(consume only if recommended by oncologist) 360 12
Resource plus* 355 7
Boost plus* 355 7
Nutritical* 380 10
* consume only if recommended by oncologist
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Health Solutions | In Depth Coverage provides web-based nutrition tools and services that enable consumers to take charge of their own health. Our clinical nutrition programs provide online nutrition counseling services for weight-control; nutrition therapy for managing diabetes and cancer and customized menu plans to lower cholesterol. Our online nutritionists provide health risk assessments, diet evaluations, guidance and support to address the consumers underlying health conditions and personal likes and dislikes.

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