Return to Index
Eating Well While Receiving Chemotherapy
How Chemotherapy Affects Eating
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in taste and smell
- Mouth tenderness, inflammation, and sores
- Nausea and vomiting
- Improve how you feel
- Maintain strength, energy, and weight
- Tolerate side effects from chemotherapy
- Decrease the risk of infection
- Recover faster
Tips for Eating
Dealing With Loss of Appetite
- Eat high-protein, high-calorie foods.
Add extra calories and protein to meals by using ingredients like:
- Milk powder
- Protein powder
- Peanut butter
- Honey, jam, and sugar
- Cheese and cream cheese
- Use liquid supplements that are specially prepared with extra nutrients, which can be found in most health food stores.
- Drink shakes, smoothies, milk, and soup if chewing and eating solid food is a problem.
Eat soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow, such as:
- Soft fruits—bananas, applesauce, watermelon, peaches, and pears
- Cottage cheese
- Mashed potatoes
- Macaroni and cheese
- Custards and puddings
- Scrambled eggs
- Oatmeal or other cooked cereals
Supplement meals with snacks that are rich in protein and calories, like:
- Cheese—soft, hard, and cottage
- Avocado spread on toast or crackers
- Hard boiled eggs
- Full-fat yogurt
- Try to get a lot of calories at breakfast, as this may be the most tolerable meal of the day.
- Eat in a pleasant environment with other people.
Managing Nausea and Vomiting
- Eat prior to chemotherapy treatment.
- Eat dry, bland foods like crackers, toast, or breadsticks throughout the day.
- Sit up or lie down with the upper body raised for one hour after eating.
- Avoid eating in the room where food was prepared. The odor may be too strong.
- Avoid eating in a room that is too warm.
- Rinse out your mouth both before and after eating.
- Suck on hard candies, like peppermints or lemon drops, if there is a bad taste in your mouth.
One Final—But Important—Note
- Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly, even if you plan on peeling the fruit or vegetable.
- Wash your hands and food preparation surfaces before and after preparing food, especially after handing raw meat.
- Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.
- Be sure to cook meat and eggs thoroughly.
- Avoid raw shellfish and sushi.
- Use only pasteurized or processed ciders and juices and pasteurized milk and cheese.
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov
BC Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca
Chemotherapy and diet. American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Eat Right website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442479230. Updated November 2013. Accessed January 14, 2014.
Nutrition for the person with cancer during treatment. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002903-pdf.pdf. Accessed January 14, 2014.
Nutrition in cancer care. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/nutrition/Patient. Updated October 29, 2013. Accessed January 14, 2014.
Toxicities of chemotherapeutic agents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 9, 2014. Accessed January 14, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 01/2014
- Update Date: 00/11/2014