After Cancer Treatment
Embracing healthy eating

Making healthy food choices after treatment can help you regain your strength, help your body to heal itself and help you to feel better overall. Eating healthy foods and staying active may also help reduce the risk of other cancers or recurrence, improve your quality of life and lead to living longer.

To help you maintain a healthy diet, prepare meals that you enjoy, are simple to make and can be frozen to eat later as well. Make the process easier by buying precut fruits and vegetables or stocking up on premade, healthy frozen meals. How you cook your food is also important: You can reduce the amount of fat by broiling, grilling, roasting or steaming your meals.

You should also limit the amount of red meat you eat; try to eat no more than three to four servings a week. Also, reduce your consumption of fat, salt and sugar, and avoid smoked and pickled foods. When it comes to alcohol, always drink in moderation.

Importance of variety and portion sizes

No single food has all of the vitamins and nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy diet. Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups, including raw and cooked fruits and vegetables; whole wheat, grains and oats; and beans, lentils and peas so that you can get all of the nutrients your body needs from your food.

Try to eat five to nine servings of fruits and veggies daily. Pick out a new fruit or vegetable or whole-grain product every time you go grocery shopping to add variety to your diet; you may find something new you really like. Also, choose low-fat milk products like 1-percent or skim milk and lower-fat cheeses, such as mozzarella.

If you’re trying to control your weight, it’s important to watch your portion sizes. A good serving of meat, fish or poultry is about 3 to 4 ounces, which is approximately the size of a deck of cards. Include protein at each meal, and a smaller serving with snacks. Substituting more fruits and veggies, which are low in calories and high in fiber, for higher-calorie side dishes and snacks may help with weight control as well.

Fad diets

There seems to be an endless variety of specialized diet plans marketed to consumers, each touting extraordinary results. The grapefruit diet, the raw food diet, the Mediterranean diet, Atkins, intermittent fasting—these are just a few of many options with devoted followers espousing their benefits. While many of these include some legitimate approaches with a few proven benefits, beware of any plan that promises a quick fix, or one that ignores basic nutrition. These diets are usually not sustainable over the long term, and the best option involves a shift in your overall approach to nutrition. By adopting healthier habits regarding food, you can establish a more sustainable and nutritious lifestyle.

Benefits of talking with a dietitian

As you begin to recover, you may have questions about eating a healthy diet. You can talk to your dietitian about any food or diet restrictions you may have and then determine what your nutrition goals should be. A dietitian can help you reach those goals, which may include weight loss, weight gain, or just learning how to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle after treatment. Your dietitian can help you create a nutritious, balanced eating plan, tailored specifically to you. A member of your health care team should be able to refer you to a dietitian in your area.


Tip from the dietitian

“Your nutrition is specific to YOU and has to involve a lasting change in how you view food. The hard truth is that no fad diet is going to fit your situation perfectly, and no short-term change is going to significantly improve your long-term health. The best option is to seek the services of a registered dietitian and ask for a meal plan that fits your needs.”

         - Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, registered dietitian, PearlPoint Cancer Support



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