Nutrition Counseling

Staying healthy and eating well can seem overwhelming. Oncology dietitians can help by providing nutrition tips for staying healthy through your cancer journey. We work closely with your provider and medical teams to ensure you maintain your weight and get all the nutrients you need.

While you are receiving cancer treatment, our goal is to help you cope with treatment side effects and maintain your weight since weight loss can lead to treatment interruptions and can worsen treatment side effects.

After cancer treatment is over, oncology dietitians can help create a personalized nutrition plan with your goals in mind.

Eating for Prevention

Healthy eating is an important part of cancer prevention. No individual food can prevent cancer, but research has shown that including a variety of plant-based foods including whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of many different types of cancers. Being overweight is also linked to many types of cancers and following a plant-based diet can help you achieve a healthy weight. It can also help reduce your risk of various chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Eat a plant-based diet:
Eating a plant-based diet means you eat less animal foods and eat more foods from plants (this includes but is not limited to whole grains, vegetables, and fruits).

Two thirds of your meal should be plant foods like brown rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, and nuts. Meat, fish, dairy, and eggs can be enjoyed in small amounts.

Try to include different colors of fruits and vegetables when you eat. These colors represent different nutrients, all of which may help prevent cancer.

  • Green – spinach, kale, broccoli, collard greens, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, cabbage, brussels sprouts
  • White – mushrooms, cauliflower, garlic, onion, banana, pears, soybeans
  • Yellow/orange – carrot, butternut squash, sweet potato, orange, peach, lemon, cantaloupe, mangos, apricots
  • Red – beets, bell pepper, radish, apple, cherry, cranberry, tomatoes, watermelon
  • Purple – purple cabbage, eggplant, blueberries, figs, plums, grapes

Limit red meat
Eating more than 18 ounces of red meat per week can increase your risk of cancer. Red meat includes beef, pork, and lamb. A serving size of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. Do not eat more than 3 servings of red meat per week. If you choose to include meat with your meals, have chicken and fish more often. No matter what type of meat you choose to eat, it should not take up more than ¼ of your plate.

Limit processed meat
Processed meats are strongly linked to cancer. It is best to avoid them, but if you choose to eat processed meats, eat them only in very small amounts. Processed meats include ham, bacon, sausage, lunch meat, hot dogs and beef jerky.

Limit alcohol
Even drinking only a small amount of alcohol can increase your risk for many types of cancers. It is best to avoid alcohol for cancer prevention. However, if you choose to drink, limit your alcohol intake to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.

Limit fast foods and sugary drinks
These foods are high in calories, which can lead to weight gain. Being overweight or obese can also increase your risk for many types of cancers.

The pillars of a healthy diet to decrease the risk of cancer are vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, and healthy fats.

These are some foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, natural fibers, and minerals whose regular consumption can contribute to the effective prevention of cancer development.

Nutrition During Treatment

Nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment because it can reduce complications and help you stay stronger.

Eating well means eating a variety of foods that will give you the nutrients you need to protect your health while fighting cancer. These nutrients include protein, grains, healthy fats, water, vitamins, and minerals.

Cancer and cancer treatment can cause many different issues that affect your ability to eat and drink. Depending on your treatment, you may only have a few difficulties or none. How cancer or cancer treatment can affect your ability to eat or drink depends on the type of cancer you have, where it is in your body, what kind of treatment you have, how long the treatment lasts, and the doses of treatment you receive.

Because treatment can also affect how your body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients, you might need to change the way you eat to feel strong. Eating well while you are being treated for cancer might help you:

  • Feel better
  • Keep up your strength and energy
  • Maintain your weight and your body’s store of nutrients
  • Better tolerate treatment-related side effects
  • Lower your risk of infection
  • Heal and recover faster

Common eating problems caused by cancer treatment
Sometimes treatment can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, diarrhea, fatigue, and poor appetite. Side effects vary depending on your treatment, but most of them can make it difficult for you to eat and drink in order to maintain your weight. We can help you by giving you personalized advice to make sure you get the nutrition you need.

Poor appetite
If your appetite is poor and you are losing weight, you should eat high-calorie foods and drinks. Even small portions throughout the day can provide a lot of calories. We can help you by modifying the foods you like to increase the calories they provide. Some examples of high-calorie foods are loaded mashed potatoes, pancakes, waffles, creamy soups, peanut butter sandwiches, guacamole and chips, and ice cream. Beverages can also be high calories like fruit juices, whole milk, chocolate milk, milkshakes, and nutritional supplements such as Ensure Plus and Boost Plus.

Nausea and Vomiting
Try eating small frequent meals and avoiding high-fat foods. Foods that have a strong smell can make your nausea worse; try eating cold or room temperature foods like tuna salad or cottage cheese with fruit.

Dry mouth
Try sipping on liquids throughout the day or adding sauces and gravies to your meals. You can also suck on hard candy, sugar-free popsicles or frozen grapes. Tart drinks in small amounts, such as lemonade, may help your mouth produce more saliva.

Eat low fat, low fiber, and avoid lactose. Make sure to drink liquids throughout the day to prevent dehydration; these include water, teas, Gatorade, ginger ale, or fruit juices.

Eat foods that may help with diarrhea like applesauce, bananas, oatmeal, potatoes, and white rice.

Taste and smell changes
Try adding marinades for meats; add lemon, herbs, spices, and hot sauces to your foods. If you are noticing a metallic taste in your mouth, try eating with plastic utensils and choose alternative protein sources like eggs, yogurt, or beans.

Side effects can be different for everyone. Be sure to talk with your doctor and dietitian about your side effects.

Eating During Survivorship

Making positive lifestyle changes, including better diet and exercise after cancer treatment, can help prevent recurrent cancer or second cancer and reduce the adverse effects of cancer and its treatment. For these reasons, it is important to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. As a cancer survivor, it is essential to eat a nutrient-rich diet to improve your health. If you are experiencing some eating-related side effects after your treatment, talk with your doctor or a dietitian to find out what nutritional needs you may have.

The American Cancer Society recommends that cancer survivors in stable health after treatment follow the same nutrition guidelines as recommended for cancer prevention.

  • Achieve a healthy body weight
    Being overweight may increase the risk of recurrence. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight in combination with physical activity.

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
    Eat fruits and vegetables that are dark green, red, and orange each day, as well as fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas) and others.

    *Insert interactive BMI Calculator where the results should indicate underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obesity

  • Select foods made with whole grains rather than refined grains and sugars

    Grains that are good for your health:
    • Amaranth
    • Barley
    • Brown rice
    • Bulgur
    • Farro
    • Quinoa
    • Oats, oatmeal
    • Teff
    • Whole-wheat couscous
    • Whole-wheat bread/whole-grain bread
    • Whole-wheat pasta
    • Whole-wheat crackers
    • Wild rice
  • Choose more fish like salmon, sardines, canned tuna, and poultry like chicken and turkey

  • Limit or avoid red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and processed meats (foods like hot dogs, sausage, and luncheon meats)

  • Limit sugary beverages and foods

    Limit sodas, sweetened teas, sweetened coffees, energy drinks, and sports drinks with sugar, fruit juice, and fruit punch.

  • If you drink alcohol

    • Limit to one standard drink for women per day
    • Limit two standard drinks for men per day
Artichokes Arugula
Brussels Sprouts
Chayote Squash
Green beans
Green cabbage
Green onions
Green peas
Green peppers
Leafy Greens
Snow Peas
Sugar Snap Peas
Avocados Green Apples
Green Grapes
Red bell pepper
Red cabbage
Red chili pepper
Red onions
Red potatoes
Red apples
Butternut Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Yellow Bell Peppers
Yellow Summer Squash
Yellow Tomatoes
Yellow Winter Squash
Yellow Figs
Yellow Pears
Yellow Apples
Black olives
Purple cabbage
Concord Grapes
Dried Plums
Purple Grapes
White potatoes
White Corn
Brown Pears
White Nectarines
White Peaches
Frequently Asked Questions

Is there something I should be eating or not eating?

Many people want to know how they can help their body fight cancer by eating certain foods, restricting foods like dairy, red meats, and soy, taking vitamins or supplements. But there are no studies that prove that any diet, food restriction, organic food, vitamin, mineral, dietary supplement, or herb can slow cancer, cure it, or keep it from coming back. Some of these products can cause other problems by changing how your cancer treatment works and even cause harm to your body.

Detoxing or avoiding sugar will not help cancer. However, this can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, unwanted weight loss, and decreased energy. Sugar is an important source of fuel for our bodies and helps us to maintain our weight. Therefore, it is important to include all types of foods in your diet in moderation. To avoid problems, talk with your doctor or dietitian before going on a special diet or taking any supplements.

Does sugar feed cancer?

Eating sugar does not increase growth of cancer. However, eating a lot of sugar leads to weight gain which is not good for your health. Foods and beverages that have a lot of sugar do not have a lot of good nutrition.

Should I be taking supplements?

Dietary supplements do not reduce the risk of cancer coming back. It is better to get vitamins and minerals from the food you eat (unless you are prescribed supplements by your doctor if you are particularly low in that vitamin/mineral). Taking supplements to get higher than recommended levels of nutrients may do more harm than good.

Organic vs non-organic?

What does organic mean? A food grown or raised with guidelines to limit the use of chemicals or genetically engineered technologies. All-natural is okay to eat but you do not have to eat organic to eat healthy.

Does soy increase my risk of getting breast cancer?

There is no harm in eating whole soy foods such as edamame, tofu, and soy milk.

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How to Book an Appointment

If you would like to see an oncology dietitian, please talk with your provider. Your provider can help you get an appointment or referral to see the dietitian.