Cancer diet can help overcome the weight loss that is a common but serious concern for cancer patients. Studies link weight loss during cancer to decreased quality of life and reduced survival time, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the cancer research branch of the National Institutes of Health.
When diagnosed, 60% of patients with lung cancers – which can result from asbestos exposure – already show significant cancer weight loss, defined as at least 10% loss of body weight. Following are tips and strategies that may help cancer patients maintain their energy levels, cognitive abilities, and physical strength.
Cancer Weight Loss: Diet and Nutrition
An optimized cancer diet and help minimize cancer weight loss through good nutrition. Maintaining body weight can help buffer the impact of cancer treatment side effects and improve quality of life. Poor nutrition not only contributes to weight loss but can contribute to the severity of treatment side effects and increase the risk of infections, lowering survival time.
But avoiding cancer weight loss isn’t easy. Cancer often brings with it nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, changes in taste and smell, pain, depression, and anxiety. There may also be a physical inability to ingest or digest food that interferes with nutrient absorption.
Best Cancer Weight Loss Diet Strategies
A beneficial cancer diet involves some strategic shopping and stocking up. Eating frequent easy-to-prepare meals and keeping healthy snacks handy may work for you. Supplementing meals with pleasant-tasting liquids can boost your total calorie intake and may help fill the gap when eating solids is difficult. Juices, soups, milk, shakes, and fruit smoothies all can be options. Eating in a calm, comfortable environment and getting some exercise can also improve appetite.
Cancer Diet Tips:
- Plan a daily menu in advance.
- Eat small, frequent, high-calorie meals (every 2 hours).
- Arrange for help in preparing meals.
- Add extra protein and calories to foods.
- Prepare and store small portions of favorite foods.
- Consume one third of daily protein and calorie requirements at breakfast.
- Snack between meals.
- Try foods that appeal to your sense of smell.
- Eat dessert.
- Experiment with different foods.
- Take supplements (check with physician or nutritionist first).
Best Cancer Diet Foods:
- Cheese and crackers.
- Greek Yogurt
- Ice cream
- Powdered milk added to foods such as pudding, milkshakes, or any recipe using milk.
- Finger foods (handy for snacking) such as deviled eggs, cream cheese or peanut butter on crackers or celery, or deviled ham on crackers.
Changing the Cancer Diet For Changing Taste
A cancer diet will need to make allowances for changes in how food may taste. These changes in how food tastes and smells can be caused by radiation treatment, dental problems or medications. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy frequently report changes in their sense of taste, specifically a bitter taste sensation. Taste changes can cause less interest in eating and resulting weight loss. Changing the cancer diet to by trying different foods as well as experimenting with new spices or ingredients may help. Rinsing the mouth before eating may help improve the taste of food.
Cancer diet tips to help manage taste changes:
- Eat small, frequent meals and healthy snacks.
- Be flexible. Eat meals when hungry rather than at set mealtimes.
- Use plastic utensils if foods taste metallic.
- Try favorite foods.
- Plan to eat with family and friends.
- Have others prepare the meal.
- Try new foods when feeling best.
- Substitute poultry, fish, eggs, and cheese for red meat.
- A vegetarian or Chinese cookbook can provide useful nonmeat, high-protein recipes.
- Use sugar-free lemon drops, gum, or mints when experiencing a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth.
- Add spices and sauces to foods.
- Eat meat with something sweet, such as cranberry sauce, jelly, or applesauce.
Make Optimizing Cancer Diet a Goal
The cancer diet can be optimized to minimize weight loss. Making this a priority may improve the survival time and quality of life for patients. Every cancer patient could benefit from consulting with a registered dietitian to formulate a customized cancer diet plan. Oral nutrition, or eating by mouth, is best and should be used whenever possible. But be open to exploring alternatives with the oncologist such as total parenteral nutrition (TPN) to maintain body weight.