World Cancer Day 2021: Dietitian's Guide On What To Eat During Cancer Treatment

Diet of a cancer patient should be well-balanced for faster recovery. Renowned dietitian Swati Bathwal tells what to add in a cancer patient's diet.

Vani Malik
Reviewed by: Swati BathwalUpdated at: Oct 22, 2021 16:40 ISTWritten by: Vani Malik
World Cancer Day 2021: Dietitian's Guide On What To Eat During Cancer Treatment

Food is essential for survival’, goes the cliché. During cancer treatment, loss of appetite is one of the primary reasons for a weak body and slow recovery. Also, change in taste buds is another reason why people avoid consuming foods. Instead of avoiding, they can try other methods to consume food. On the ocassion of World Cancer Day 2021, Dr. Swati Bathwal, Dieititian and Diabetes Educator explains ideal diet for cancer patients and tips to make food more nutritious and palatable.

Ideal intake for patients 

In most of the cases, protein requirement for cancer patients can range around 1gm/kg to 2gm/kg. The intake greatly depends on the level of chemo drugs given to the patient. Further, the calorie requirement of the body is ideally around 2000 kCal/ day. These desired amounts of nutrients are essential for the body to deal with the side effects of the heavy drugs involved in the treatment. Post chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the neutrophil count of most patients decrease and this is a critical condition as it increases the risk of infection and the patient may even die.

NOTE: Sugar is strictly forbidden in cancer patient's diet. Instead, you can replace it with sugar, jaggery and dates. This would provide a sweet taste without consuming sugar.

Food safety 

Cancer treatment is harrowing for the mind, and the body and only a suitable diet can keep you safe from germs and bacteria. Cancer is very individual and everyone reacts differently, so people must take care of their diet.

Following are some of the major food safety tips that a cancer patient should follow during treatment: 

  • Eat well-cooked food
  • Use a separate cutting board for raw fish, meat or poultry
  • Avoid raw eggs, raw meat and sprouts
  • Refrigerate perishable food items until used
  • Only eat properly cooked/pressure cooked food to avoid bacterial infection
  • Add high protein foods and energy providing foods such as coconut laddoos and khoya ladoos.
  • People can have lactose-free milk and yogurt if they are lactose intolerant as this is highly common with cancer patients. Diarrhoea in cancer patients also causes this condition.

Drink Plenty of Fluids 

Liquids are essential to fulfil the loss of fluids in the body. For a cancer patient, a minimum of 8-12 glasses of liquid is advisable in a day. Apart from water, juices and shakes are a great source of energy restoration. Also, milk, yoghurt and soups are beneficial for patients having difficulty in digesting solid food.

Taste change is very common with radiotherapy treatment. Most patients go through this issue as they no longer like the food that once used to be their favourite. If you have taste changes then you can bypass your taste buds through a straw. Have liquid food through a straw to bypass it from your taste buds so that you can have something without tasting it.

Also read: 7 Alarming Signs of Cervical Cancer Every Woman Should Know

Diet for Cancer Patients For Recovery 

Following are some of the essential diet tips for cancer patients to recover well: 

  • Add oil, butter and milk to increase its calorific value. 
  • If you have a tender stomach, opt for bland items like bananas, rice and apples. 
  • Nutrient-rich, high-calorie food like avocados, whole grain breads, pudding, cooked cereals, beans and nuts especially helpful in recuperating from the effect of treatment. 
  • Vegetables and fruits augment vitamin and fibre intake, leading to better digestion. 
  • In a day, plan five or six small meals at specific times over the day even if not hungry.
  • Do not eat raw vegetables as it can increase the chances of bacterial infections as the body is vulnerable due to heavy medication. 
  • Ensure that your kitchen is clean and hygienic 
  • Avoid consuming red meat during cancer treatment as it is difficult to digest and can lead to an upset stomach. 
  • Avoid trans fat in food items like French fries, pizza bases that you buy from markets, taco shells, muffins, etc. 
  • Consume more of nuts, olive oil, fish for all of these items are high in unsaturated fats. Brain and heart health can be ensured with a diet consisting of tuna, flaxseeds, salmon, etc. 
If you have a cancer patient in the family who is recovering from the disease, ensure that they follow these diet tips. By taking care of their diet, road to recovery becomes smooth. 

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