Improve Your Diet

Why is good nutrition important in preparing for your treatment?

Good nutrition is important in preparation for your cancer treatment and for overall good health. Eating the right kinds of foods before treatment can help you feel better and stay stronger. It can help you:

  1. Keep a healthy body weight.
  2. Maintain muscle and strength.
  3. Decrease the side effects of treatment.
  4. Help you complete all your planned treatment, leading to better outcomes.

Good nutrition is also important when you start to increase your exercise and activity.

What dietary advice should I follow?

The dietary advice you should follow will depend on whether you are underweight, have lost weight without planning to, or have a poor appetite.

Nutritional screening is used to look for any problems with unplanned weight loss or your appetite. Your healthcare team may ask you questions about your weight, appetite and ability to eat. If you are worried about your appetite or any unplanned weight loss you can use the BAPEN nutritional screening tool to check your risk. The malnutrition screening tool will tell you if you are at low, medium or high risk, and give you first-line advice to help you overcome some of these problems. If your result is high risk its important to contact your healthcare team and request a referral to a dietitian for individual advice and support.

If you have a good appetite and have not had any unplanned weight loss, you should follow a healthy, balanced diet

Following a diagnosis of cancer it is common to have lost weight or have difficulty eating and drinking. This can be due to anxiety and worry caused by the diagnosis, difficulty swallowing or chewing or a change in the way your body digests and uses your food and drink you eat.

Good nutrition can prevent you from becoming malnourished. Malnutrition is a condition caused by the lack of key nutrients. It can cause you to lose weight and become weak, tired, have difficulty fighting infections and complete planned cancer treatments. It is important you prevent any unplanned weight loss and maintain a good nourishing diet.

If you are underweight, are losing weight or have a poor appetite here are some useful tips to get more nourishment from your diet:

  1. You should try to eat 3 meals a day with snacks and nourishing drinks in between. Try including mixed nuts, yoghurts, cheese and crackers, toast, crumpets or full fat milk, hot chocolate, milkshakes or smoothies.
  2. If you eat low fat or “diet” type foods, switch to the full fat or full calorie equivalents as the extra energy in them may halt or slow any unplanned weight loss.
  3. Aim to include some protein foods in each meal or snack, such as meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, beans and nuts.
  4. Try enriching your foods by adding extra calories to them, for example:
    • Add cheese to soups, pasta, mash potato or vegetables,
    • Add extra butter, margarine to vegetables, bread or scrambled egg.
  5. Take drinks after meals rather than with meals so that they do not fill you up.

For further information, read the Macmillan Build up diet 

Enriching and fortifying your food

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5 steps to a nourishing diet

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Further support and help:

The advice on these pages is designed to help you prepare for the treatment ahead and support you through to recovery.

If you need further advice and support please discuss this with your key worker or healthcare professional.

  • Macmillan Cancer Support:
    0808 808 00 00
  • Maggie’s Cardiff:
    029 2240 8024
  • Tenovus Cancer Care:
    0808 808 1010
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