Throughout your cancer treatment, it’s likely you experienced loss of appetite, changes to your senses of taste and smell, and bouts of nausea — all of which probably made eating regularly a challenge. However, now that treatment is over, you’re likely to regain your appetite.
As you return to a more regular routine, we at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers encourage you to be mindful of what and how much you’re eating. For some survivors, the focus is on regaining weight after losing too much, while other survivors may be looking to maintain or even lose a few pounds after treatment. Regardless of your personal goals, when it comes to practicing healthy eating habits, the end of cancer treatment is a great time for a fresh start.
1. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals
If you need to gain weight, but don’t have the appetite for a large breakfast or dinner, try meeting your calorie goals by snacking on healthy foods throughout the day. Light and simple is the best way to go. For example, breakfast could be a hard-boiled egg, followed by a mid-morning banana, followed by a scoop of tuna salad for lunch, etc. This can also be a good approach to keep you from overeating if you need to lose weight.
2. Power Up on Protein from Different Sources
Proteins are the building blocks of life and essential to any healthy eating routine. In addition to helping build muscle mass, proteins help repair and build new cells. Proteins also take longer to digest. Because of this, you’ll feel full longer and be less likely to crave unhealthy snacks. Remember, variety is the spice of life, so try different protein sources such as red meat, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, beans, and cheese.
3. Avoid Empty Calories
While you may need to gain weight, it’s important to remember that not all calories are equal. Studies repeatedly conclude that sugars and saturated fats, although high in calories, can have negative health implications. Because of this, we encourage you to avoid eating too many empty calories that are found in many processed foods, starches, sweets, and sodas.
4. Use Seasonings To Add Flavor
If you are experiencing long-term treatment side effects such as nausea or taste changes, consider seasoning your food to make it more appealing. Garlic, dill, lemon juice, cinnamon, and rosemary are just a few examples of healthy spices that can make bland food more flavorful. When using salt, keep in mind that too much could have a negative impact on your health. Therefore, it’s best to monitor the amount you use each day.
5. Don’t Forget About Fiber
You’ve probably heard that dietary fiber helps prevent and relieve constipation. But did you know that it also helps control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol? High-fiber foods are less energy-dense than other foods. Because of this, they have fewer calories than the same amount of low-fiber foods. And, they’re more filling than low-fiber foods. This means that after you eat them, you’ll feel fuller longer. High-fiber foods like apples and oranges, vegetables like cauliflower and green beans, whole grains like oats and wheat bran, and legumes are ideal choices to add to your plate.
6. Eat the Rainbow
The colors of fruits and vegetables represent different nutrients that we should put into our bodies. Choose fresh produce in a variety of colors, such as dark leafy greens, deep-yellow squash, oranges, red peppers, blueberries, etc.
7. Prepare Food Differently
It’s no secret that vegetables are key to a healthy diet. If you’re used to eating vegetables a certain way or don’t much care for them, experiment with other ways to prepare them. Veggies can be eaten crunchy and raw with a healthy dip, such as seasoned Greek yogurt, steamed and topped with cheese, or diced up and incorporated into foods such as omelets, meatloaf, and soups. When cooking meat, keep frying or sautéing to a minimum. Instead, try other methods like steaming, baking, and broiling which are much healthier options.
8. Shop the Perimeter of the Grocery Store
Fresh foods are the healthiest foods, which are typically found along the outside edge, or perimeter of the grocery store. When shopping, head to the produce section, meat and seafood counters, and dairy area rather than to the aisles filled with processed foods that usually come in cans, bags, and boxes.
9. Get Help and Support From Oncology Nutrition Services
At RMCC, we understand that for some people, it can be a challenge to make the right nutritional choices. If you’re struggling with healthy eating and would like help, request an appointment at one of our Colorado cancer centers. The RMCC staff can provide you with personalized nutrition solutions and menu ideas to prevent additional illnesses and facilitate recovery from your disease.