Veg-to-table-smNutrition is an important part of your treatment plan. It is important to eat well during your treatment. Eating well helps you feel better, keep up your strength and energy, keep up your weight and your body’s store of nutrients, tolerate treatment-related side effects, lower your risk of infection, and heal and recover faster. Cancer and blood disorder treatments can affect the way you eat and the way your body uses nutrients.

Side effects from treatment are possible but do not happen to everyone. It is important to be aware of side effects of treatment, how they affect your nutrition, and know how to manage them. See information under “managing physical side effects” for information on how to deal with side effects that affect how you eat.

This section provides you with information on maintaining good nutrition during treatment.

Getting Started

Eating a wide variety of foods so your body gets the nutrients it needs to support itself while fighting illness. The nutrients your body needs are protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Protein is a source of calories for your body. Protein helps your tissues rebuild and repair and keeps our immune system working. Protein is found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds, dried beans, peas, and lentils, tofu, tempeh, and soy beans.
  • Carbohydrates are a source of calories for your body. Carbohydrates give your body energy and help your organs work properly. Carbohydrates are found in milk, yogurt, starches, starchy vegetables, and fruit
  • Fat is a source of calories for your body. Fat insulates body tissues, help your body absorb certain nutrients, and help with the flavor of food. Fats are found in vegetable oils, butter, nuts and seeds, avocado, cream cheese and sour cream
  • Water and fluid prevents dehydration. Aim to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid per day. This can be anything liquid at room temperature. Some examples are water, juice, sports drinks, gelatin, popsicles, and ice chips.
  • Vitamins and minerals help the body grow and stay strong and help your body break down food for energy. The best way to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals is to eat a wide variety of foods choosing from each food group. If you are note eating a balanced diet while you go through treatment, ask your doctor or dietitian if you should take a multivitamin. Always discuss vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements with your healthcare team. Many supplements interfere with cancer treatment.

Tips for Eating During Treatment

  • Enlist the help of a family member or friend to help with meal preparation
  • Keep easy to prepare foods on hand for quick snacks during the day
  • Make meals ahead of time and freeze them to have on days when you feel more fatigued
  • Try new foods. Taste changes during treatment might make some of your favorite foods less desirable. Don’t be afraid to try something you don’t normally like since it might taste good to you now.
  • Eat small frequent meals and snacks during the day
  • If you take any vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements, check with your healthcare team to make sure they are safe to take during treatment.
High Calorie Addition Where to Add It
Avocado (healthy fat )
  • Add to sandwiches and salads
  • Add to your smoothie
  • Make guacamole and use as dip
Beans and legumes (protein boost, added fiber)
  • Add to soups and puree for a smooth consistency
  • Add to salads, casseroles, pasta and rice dishes
Butter or margarine (trans fat free) (high fat)
  • Add to potatoes, vegetables, hot cereal, soups, bread, rice, eggs
  • Melt and drizzle on popcorn
  • Combine with seasoning and use on meats, hamburgers, or fish
Canola oil, olive oil, coconut oil(healthy fat)
  • Use it to stir fry
  • Drizzle over rice or pasta
  • Add a tablespoon to tomato sauce
Cheese (protein boost, high fat)
  • Sprinkle on casseroles, soups, salads, or an omelet
  • Melt on vegetables
  • Add a slice on your sandwich or crackers
Commercial nutrition supplements (protein boost, added calories)
  • Use instant breakfast powder in milk drinks and desserts
  • Mix with ice cream, milk, fruit and peanut butter for a high protein milkshake
Cottage cheese or ricotta cheese(protein boost, high fat)
  • Add to casseroles, spaghetti, noodles, and egg dishes
  • Add to pancake or waffle batter
Cream cheese (high fat)
  • Spread on bagels and crackers
  • Serve with fruit
  • Roll into balls and coat with nuts, wheat germ and/or granola
Dried fruit (added calories, fiber boost)
  • Add to muffins, cookies, bread
  • Add to hot or cold cereal
  • Use as part of trail mix
Eggs, any style (protein boost)
  • Add hard-cooked eggs to salads or casseroles
  • Use deviled egg filling for a sandwich spread
Fresh fruit or canned fruit (added calories, fiber boost)
  • Add to milkshakes and ice cream
  • Use as a topping for puddings and custards
  • Blend with a commercial nutrition supplement
Granola (added calories)
  • Use in cookie, muffin or bread batter
  • Sprinkle on yogurt, ice cream, custard, or fruitLayer with fruit and bake
  • Add to hot or cold cereals
Greek Yogurt or regular yogurt(protein boost)
  • Eat with fruit and granola
  • Use as a dip for fruit
Honey, jam, brown sugar (added calories)
  • Add to hot or cold cereal
  • Use to sweeten coffee or tea
  • Add to bread, crackers, cereal, milk drinks, and desserts
Ice cream (high fat)
  • Blend with milk and fruit
  • Blend with a commercial nutrition supplement
  • Add to a carbonated beverage
Milk or cream (high fat, protein boost)
  • Use in soups, sauces, egg dishes, batters, puddings and custards
  • Mix with noodles, pasta, rice and mashed potatoes
Nuts and seeds (healthy fat, protein boost)
  • Add to cereals
  • Add to casseroles
  • Add to salads
  • Make trail mix
Peanut butter (healthy fat, protein boost)
  • Spread on bagels, bread, crackers, fruit
  • Add to smoothies
  • Eat by the spoonful
Powdered milk (protein boost)
  • Add to regular milk and other milk drinks
  • Use in casseroles, meatloaf, batters, sauces, casseroles, omelets, mashed potatoes, puddings, and milk-based
Sour cream (high fat)
  • Add to cream soups, baked potatoes, macaroni and cheese, vegetables, stews and chili
  • Mix with different seasonings and use as a dip for vegetables
Sweetened condensed milk (added calories)
  • Add to pies, puddings, milkshakes
  • Mix 1-2 tablespoons with peanut butter and spread on toast

Feeding Tube

Sometimes during treatment, it is not possible to eat or drink enough by mouth. When this happens, people receive nutrition through a feeding tube. If you need a feeding tube, your healthcare team at the WMCC will set you up with the information and supplies you need.

WMCC Registered Dietitians

As a patient at the West Michigan Cancer Center & Institute for Blood Disorders, you have access to a registered dietitian. A registered dietitian has special training in food, nutrition, biochemistry, and physiology. Ask your doctor for a referral to set up a complimentary visit with one of WMCC’s registered dietitians.

Web Resources

Oncology Nutrition–Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

American Institute for Cancer Research