The side effects of cancer treatment are often made worse if you are not eating enough or if you are not eating the right foods. Maintaining good nutrition can help you feel better and have more energy. The following strategies will help improve your diet:
Meet your basic calorie needs. The estimated calorie needs for someone with cancer is 15 calories per pound of weight if your weight has been stable. Add 500 calories per day if you have lost weight. Example: A person who weighs 150 lbs. needs about 2,250 calories per day to maintain his or her weight.
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Get plenty of protein. Protein rebuilds and repairs damaged (and normally aging) body tissue. The estimated protein needs are 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Example: A 150-pound person needs 75 to 90 grams of protein per day. The best sources of protein include foods from the dairy group (8 oz. milk = 8 grams protein) and meats (meat, fish, or poultry = 7 grams of protein per ounce), as well as eggs and legumes (beans).
Drink plenty of fluids. A minimum of eight cups of fluid per day will prevent dehydration. (That's 64 ounces, 2 quarts, or 1 half-gallon.) Fluids can include water, juice, milk, broth, milkshakes, gelatin, and other beverages. Beverages containing caffeine do not count as much, because they may make you urinate out as much or more than you take in. Keep in mind that you'll need more fluids if you have treatment side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea.
Make sure you are getting enough vitamins. Take a vitamin supplement if you are not sure you are getting enough nutrients. A recommended supplement would be a multivitamin that provides at least 100% of the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for most nutrients.
Make an appointment with a dietitian. A registered dietitian can provide suggestions to work around any eating problems that may be interfering with proper nutrition (such as early feeling of fullness, swallowing difficulty, or taste changes).
A dietitian can also suggest ways to maximize calories and include proteins in smaller amounts of food (such as powdered milk, instant breakfast drinks, and other commercial supplements or food additives).
Note: Vitamin supplements do not provide calories, which are essential for energy production. Vitamins are not a substitute for food.