Good nutrition for chemotherapy patients can be affected by poor mouth care, fatigue, pain, and fever, as well as the many symptoms that can occur during and after cancer chemotherapy treatments. The goal is to know how to combat these symptoms and maintain an adequate diet after chemo.
Goals for managing symptoms to achieve a good diet after chemo:
Loss of appetite for food (Anorexia)
• Plan ahead – plan a daily menu in advance.
• Make every bite count – choose high calorie and protein foods (i.e. casseroles, fortified milkshakes, peanut butter added to snacks).
• Pack snacks to keep on hand at all times.
• Strive to eat at least 1/3 of your calorie and protein needs at breakfast.
• Eat 5-6 small meals per day (this helps to sneak in extra calories and protein).
• Don’t be afraid to try something new, this might spark your appetite.
• Be sure to follow good mouth care practices.
Difficulty swallowing (Dysphagia)
• After chemo treatments, soft foods may improve swallowing problems. These tend to go down easier.
• Consider high calorie and protein milkshakes. Liquids tend to be the best tolerated, especially if the difficulty swallowing is related to a narrowed esophagus.
• Chew solid foods thoroughly.
Foods to avoid (especially for patients during and after chemo):
• Hot, spicy foods (i.e. hot pepper, curry, Cajun spice mix).
• Fatty, greasy or fried foods.
• Very sweet, sugary foods.
• Large meals.
• Foods with strong smells (foods that are warm tend to smell stronger).
• Eating or drinking quickly.
• Drinking beverages with meals.
• Lying down after a meal.
Diet tips to try:
• Small meals throughout the day.
• Refrigerated or room temperature entrees.
• Rinse mouth with lemon water after eating.
• Suck on ice cubes, mints, or hard candies.
• Distractions such as TV, music, or reading may be helpful while eating.