It is well known that food, exercise, and how much you weigh can make a difference with stopping cancer and other illnesses in a big way. The American Institute for Cancer Research ( helps study how food and exercise help stop cancer. For some people, eating a different way and being active will take some time and work. You can start making healthy changes any time. Healthy changes are always good no matter when you start. Ask your Registered Dietitian (RD) to help you reach the goals you want.

Look at your plate

Fill at least 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans and 1/3 from fish, poultry, lean beef, seafood, eggs or tofu

  • Add more vegetables to recipes
  • Use beans in place of meat in soups and main dishes
  • Eat more fruit for dessert

Pay attention to portion size

Eating less cuts calories.
  • 3 ounces of lean meat
  • 1 cup skim milk or 1 1⁄2 ounce of cheese
  • 1 cup fresh fruit or 1 medium apple or orange
  • 1/2 cup cooked vegetable or 1 cup raw, leafy vegetable
  • 1 teaspoon of oil (olive or canola), margarine or butter
  • 1⁄2 cup brown rice or 1⁄2 cup cooked oatmeal

All foods work together for the best protection

Eat many different fruits and vegetables. Choose colorful fruits and vegetables rather than taking vitamins to help you get the best from these foods.

When you have cancer, good nutrition takes on an even greater role. Good nutrition will help you maintain your strength and weight, better handle your treatments, and will boost your immune system (helping with healing and repair). Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may make it difficult for you to get the nutrients you need from the foods you eat. Since everyone is different, not everyone will experience these side effects to treatment. If you do, use the tips below to handle the effects as they occur.

Feeling full all the time (loss of appetite)

Eat small frequent meals, such as 6-8 small meals/snacks during day.

  • Eat slowly and chew thoroughly to prevent becoming full too quickly. Limit the amount of liquids you drink at meals.
  • Drink liquids between meals. Choose liquids of high nutritive value, such as juices, milkshakes, or Boost/Ensure.
  • Keep high calorie snacks handy to eat when you are hungry. Try peanut butter, cheese, ice cream, granola bars.

Changes in the way food tastes

Use acidic foods such as lemon wedges or other citrus fruits or juices to stimulate taste buds or to help cover very salty or sweet tastes.

  • If red meat tastes different, try chicken, turkey, fish or eggs for protein. Use different marinades such as sweet and sour sauce to change the taste of meats.
  • Use strong seasonings, such as onion, garlic, and chili powder, when preparing foods. Try using oils, butter, or sugar, or try using plastic utensils to help make food taste less like metal. Hide bitter tastes with sugar or maple syrup.
  • Drink liquids or suck on candies to eliminate bad taste.
  • Rinse your mouth often with a baking soda and salt water (mix 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda in a quart of water).
  • Eat frozen fruits such as cantaloupe, grapes, and watermelon.

Nausea and vomiting

  • Eat small, frequent meals and avoid drinking liquids at meals.
  • Avoid unpleasant odors, and avoid fried, greasy, or spicy foods.
  • Try cooler foods instead of those that are cooked.
  • Eat dry foods, such as crackers, toast, dry cereals every 2 – 3 hours.


  • Eat breakfast and choose high fiber foods for meals and snacks.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. Hot liquids in particular may be helpful.
  • Exercise and eat at regular times each day.


  • Pay attention to foods that may cause diarrhea. This may be raw vegetables and dairy products. Avoid high fiber and fatty foods. Avoid eating the skin of fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts.
  • Ask your doctor if you need to eat more high potassium foods such as bananas, potatoes and orange juice.
  • Diarrhea may cause your body to lose a lot of water; be sure to drink fluids between meals.

Sore mouth and throat

  • Choose soft foods or use a blender to puree your foods.
  • Avoid rough, course, or dry foods. Moisten foods with soups, thin gravies, butter, or cream sauces.
  • Cold foods may be soothing. Suck on frozen grapes, popsicles, ice chips, or sour lemon drops.
  • Use a straw to drink liquids.

Good nutrition is important for all individuals. The American Cancer Society provides guidelines on diet, nutrition, and cancer prevention. For some people, these guidelines may mean making a few small changes in their diet. However, for others, change will take more time and effort. It is important to remember that change is a matter of choice, and you can start making good choices right now.

Choose most of the foods you eat from plant sources

  • Eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day.
  • Eat other foods from plant sources, such as breads, cereals, grain products, rice, pasta, or beans several times each day.
One serving may be...
1⁄2 cup fruit or juice
  • 1 cup leafy vegetable
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1⁄2 cup cooked vegetable
  • 1 ounce dry cereal
  • 1⁄2 cup cooked cereal, rice, pasta

Choose foods made with whole grains rather than processed flour. These foods are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Beans are also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are low in fat, high in protein and can be used as a meat alternative.

Limit salty foods

Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages, if you drink at all.

  • Men: Limit alcohol to two drinks a day; Women: Limit alcohol to one drink a day.
  • A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Limit your intake of high-fat foods, particularly from animal sources.

  • Choose foods low in fat
  • Limit intake of meats, especially high-fat meats
  • Avoid processed meats such as ham, salami, bacon, pastrami, sausage, bratwurst, and hot dogs

Switching from high-fat to low-fat foods should be done gradually. Try using cooking spray instead of oil or skim milk instead of low-fat milk. Select baked, broiled, and roasted foods instead of fried.
Switching from high-fat to low-fat foods should be done gradually. Try using cooking spray instead of oil or skim milk instead of low-fat milk. Select baked, broiled, and roasted foods instead of fried.
Choose low-fat meals when eating out. Don’t be afraid to ask for lower fat choices.

Be physically active: Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Be at least moderately active for 30 minutes or more each day.
  • Stay within you healthy weight range.

Physical activity can be fun! Try walking briskly, swimming, gardening, or housework. The 30 minutes of activity does not have to be continuous either. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is just one way to sneak in small amounts of activity throughout the day.