Eating right can be difficult when you’re caring for someone with cancer. Appointments may get in the way of meals. You might not like the food at the hospital or transfusion center. You may not have time or energy to cook. If your loved one is not eating on a regular schedule, you may be less motivated to prepare meals. But caregiving can stress your body and spirit. You're at greater risk of getting sick. So is the person with cancer. Eating well will help you both stay healthy. A healthy diet can help protect you from heart disease, bone loss, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other illnesses.
Here are some tips for eating right:
- Get help with caregiving so you have time to eat well.
- Plan ahead for meals. Prepare some meals in advance. Consider asking a friend to help, or try an online meal-planning tool like the Interactive Menu Planner, Healthy Eating Pyramid, or MyPyramid Menu Planner.
- Avoid skipping meals. Pack a lunch if you’re going to be taking the patient to treatment during the day.
- Try to get a variety of healthy foods and beverages each day. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Read food labels so you know what you are eating, and try to avoid saturated fats (cheeses, some meats, whole milk, butter, etc.), transfats (snack foods, frozen dinners, cakes, cookies, margarine, fried foods), cholesterol, and added sugars
- Limit your intake of alcohol.
- Try to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 and1/2 cups of vegetables daily.
- Drink 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.
- Eat plenty of fish and nuts.
- Cook with vegetable oils (olive, canola, sunflower, soy and corn) rather than butter.
- Drink beverages without added sugars or sweeteners.
- Limit salt.
- Keep healthy snacks like fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, or low-fat string cheese on hand.
- Keep a food diary for three days. Write down what, when, where, and how much you eat. Your food diary will help you understand your eating habits, and what areas you need to work on.
Here are some helpful websites:
- American Heart Association Nutrition Center
- Dietary Guidelines (U.S. Department of Human Services)
- Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating
- Nutrition for Life
You might also consider asking your doctor or a nutritionist for help in planning a balanced diet.