Diet Regime before and during cancer treatment

Contributed by- Soumita Biswas - Chief Nutritionist - Aster RV Hospital

Diet is the key part not only during cancer treatment, in fact, but it is also important during pre & post-treatment as well. When you have cancer, you need to eat to keep up your strength to deal with the side effects of treatment. Treatments can result in appetite loss as well as weight loss. Before starting the treatment, it is important to maintain weight or prevent sudden weight loss. Eating a healthy diet & maintaining weight before treatment helps to stay strong, reduce the risk of infection and cope with side effects better & improve the chances of receiving treatments. Generally, a high protein high-calorie diet is recommended before the treatment starts which helps in improving the sleep pattern also.

Soumita Biswas
Soumita Biswas – Chief Nutritionist – Aster RV Hospital

Before treatment, one should start focusing on healthy food habits which may help to increase your energy. To prepare yourself and your home for your nutritional needs during cancer therapy, think about the following suggestions:


  • Need to maintain a good stock of foods
  • Fill your fridge and pantry with healthy foods, especially those that need very little or no cooking.
  • Stock up foods which need less or no cooking, which can be used for emergency purpose.
  • Always choose small, frequent meals.
  • Choose healthy protein-rich snacks to eat in-between i.e. peanuts, sprouts, oats, etc.
  • Nuts, yogurt, pre-chopped veggies, and microwaveable brown rice or other whole grains are easy options.
  • If nausea/vomiting present avoid milk
  • Plan a grocery list for a week.

During treatment

Prepare yourself to follow the diet regime throughout the treatment. In the course of cancer treatment, the immune system becomes weak and the patient may fall sick easily. Reduced immunity results in many side effects and foodborne illnesses too. You may have days when you feel hungry, and others when food is the last thing you want. Eat lots of protein and healthy calories. That will keep your body strong and help repair damage from the treatment. To strengthen immunity, it is important to consume antioxidants rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains including whole wheat flour, millets, beans, eggs, fish, chicken, etc.

Food safety during treatment is very crucial to avoid foodborne illness.

Cancer and cancer treatment can weaken your immune system and make you more prone to infection. This includes infection from foods. The following are the tips to keep your food safe.

  • Selection of food qualitywise
  • Choose food from a genuine source
  • Avoid raw food
  • Cook food at the proper temperature
  • Check expiry date
  • Cook food until it’s cooked completely or well done
  • Avoid any leftover food or food from any open packet
  • Keep perishable and healthy foods in the fridge
  • Make sure to include items you can eat even when you feel sick
  • Wash vegetables or any raw foods thoroughly
  • Food preparation area or chopping board should be washed thoroughly to avoid contamination
  • Maintain hand hygiene. Wash hand before and after eating.

High protein and high-calorie food

During cancer, our body’s metabolism called hypermetabolism increases that affect the requirement for high carbohydrate, protein and fat food. High-calorie food includesPudding, Egg nog, Milkshakes, Avocado, porridge Pulses and legumes, Curd, Milk, Beans, Mushroom, Chicken, Fish, and Eggs, etc.

Management of Side effects

Sometimes it becomes very difficult to manage the side effects. The side effects are like Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, swallowing difficulty, Gastritis, taste alterations, and Appetite loss.

Constipation can be avoided by adding more fluids or just plain water. High fiber foods such as vegetables, whole grains also help to prevent constipation.

Diarrhea can be avoided by staying away from dehydration. Eat food always from a known source.

Swallowing difficulty can be solved by including liquid foods in daily diets. you can always choose shakes, soups or any other liquids.

Nausea can be reduced by avoiding strong odor and spicy foods. Drink plenty of water.

Taste alterations and Appetite loss can be replenished by adding high-calorie nutrient-rich foods.

  • Add small, frequent meals.
  • Eat 6-7 meals per day.

To conclude we can always say though you are not hungry, you have to eat before and during your cancer treatment. Eating well with high protein and high-calorie diet is important throughout the treatment to maintain the weight. Talk with your doctor, nurse, or dietitian about any eating problems that might affect you during cancer treatment. They can advise you about how to follow your special diet while coping with eating problems caused by cancer treatment.

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