How to Eat Well during Cancer Treatment

November 05, 2018

How to Eat Well during Cancer Treatment

My father has cancer - what should he eat?

In cancer, the treatment received not only kills the cancerous cells in their body but also normal healthy cells. Various side effects can crop up, and affect a person’s diet and appetite. However, each person’s cancer and treatment story is different as these effects vary from person to person.

Our dietitian has identified 6 common problems faced by cancer patients and collated useful strategies and tips for caregivers. Let's make sure that our loved ones are well prepared to fight this battle, together.



  • Smaller portions that are high in energy.
  • Instant breakfast mixes or frozen meals as they are great for those who are tired easily and cannot cook.
  • Eating together as a family, so keep mealtimes flexible and enjoyable.

Low Appetite and Weight loss

What to do

  • Let them eat when they are alert during the day. Remember, as their condition progresses, their appetite may decrease so do not force them to eat.
  • Serve small, frequent meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
  • Design the food to look more appealing by placing it in smaller portions and on smaller plates.
  • Add melted butter, oil, or margarine to foods to help get more energy.
  • Encourage them to eat more protein and energy rich foods throughout the day, such as custards, jellies, puddings and dessert powders. These can help prevent further weight loss caused by the disease and treatment.


  • Water or soup before meals as they may be filling and cause them to eat less.


What to do

  • Add more fibre to their diet such as whole grain foods, vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils.
  • Provide at least 8 to 10 cups of fluids daily. These can include water, milk, juices, soups and other beverages (Try to cut down caffeinated drinks e.g. coffee and cola drinks as they tend to dehydrate the body).
  • If they are still physically able, encourage them to go for a walk and do some light exercises as it may help to stimulate bowel movement.
  • Try a fibre supplement to help with constipation.
  • If they have not passed motion in 3 or more days, let their Nurse or Doctor know.



  • Plenty of water/liquids throughout the day to prevent dehydration. Drink them at room temperature.


  • High-fibre, high-fat (greasy/ fried), spicy or very sweet foods as they can make diarrhoea worse
  • Raw fruit and vegetables with skin or seeds, and avoid dried fruits. When diarrhoea is over, gradually encourage foods with more fibre.
  • Limit sugar-free gum and candies with sorbitol, as these can sometimes cause diarrhoea.

Inform their doctor if diarrhoea persists or increases, or if you observe their stools having an unusual colour or odour.

Nausea and Vomiting


  • Foods that are at room temperature or are cold.
  • Foods that don’t have a strong odour and are not overly sweet, spicy or greasy.
  • Smaller and frequent meals daily rather than large meals.
  • Ensure they don’t skip meals and snacks. Even if they do not feel hungry, they should still eat a small snack. For many people, having an empty stomach makes nausea worse.
  • Clear fluids like barley water, ginger tea and clear soups between meals.
  • Some people find sour or salty foods help to reduce their nausea.

Sore Mouth and Throat

What to do

  • Choose cool or lukewarm foods.
  • Provide drinks with a straw. Use a very small spoon (e.g. teaspoon) to help them take smaller bites.
  • If they have a dry mouth, moisten foods with sauces and gravies.


  • Acidic or salty beverages and foods.
  • Rough-textured foods such as dry toast, crackers, granola and raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages and tobacco.
  • Spices such as chilli powder, cloves, curry, hot sauces, nutmeg and pepper which may irritate the mouth; season with herbs instead.

If you'd like to learn more on how to manage cancer with the right nutrition, speak to us at 6250 2129 today.

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