Your body will need a lot of energy to deal with the effects of lung cancer and its treatments. During this time, make sure you eat enough, eat well, and stay hydrated. This may be hard to do. You may feel that you do not have enough energy, or appetite, or time to keep up with your nutritional needs. But it is very important that you maintain your strength. This will also help you feel less fatigued and keep up with your daily activities. Planning ahead will make it easier to get through the rough spots when you will not have the energy to shop and cook. You can prepare meals and freeze them, or stock up on ready-made frozen dinners before your treatment. These meals should be mild in flavour and soft, in case you have side effects like a sore throat, mouth sores, or an upset stomach. During treatment, accept (and ask for) help from your family and friends. Together you can make a list of tasks they can do to make life easier. Let the friend who is a good cook bring you a meal. A pot of soup or a casserole delivered to your door when you are tired can mean the difference between eating and missing a meal. A friend who does not like being in the kitchen can pick up groceries. If you have a lot of trouble maintaining a proper diet, ask to see a dietitian at your treatment facility. You can also find a registered dietitian who specializes in cancer on the Dietitians of Canada website (www.dietitians.ca).
Minimizing Weight Loss
It is important that you maintain a healthy weight. Because of the energy demands that cancer and its treatment put on your body, you will need to take in a lot of calories. Eating energy-rich foods that are high in carbohydrates and fats will help. These include foods like muffins, bread, pasta, granola bars, ice cream, milkshakes, nuts and nut butters, and cheese. You can also incorporate high-calorie ingredients into recipes. Fry foods in oil or add butter to soups, stews, and casseroles. Put gravy and butter over mashed potatoes. Use regular mayonnaise in salad dressing and sandwiches. Eat jam, honey, and syrup with breakfast. Top dishes with cheese. Snack on nuts and dried fruit. Put ice cream and whipped cream on desserts. Put peanut butter, whole milk, or cream in your smoothies. Do not wait till you feel hungry to eat. Eat whatever you are hungry for now. Your appetite is usually greatest at the beginning of the day. Take advantage of your appetite by making breakfast your largest meal of the day. Then, eat small amounts throughout the day. You may find it easier to eat several small meals throughout the day rather than a few large meals. Talk to a dietitian about nutritional supplements (such as Boost® or Ensure®) if you cannot eat enough throughout the day. They can also advise you about vitamin and mineral supplements.
Eating enough protein
Protein is very important for healing your body—it is essential for growing new, healthy cells, repairing damaged tissue, and maintaining a strong immune system. Make sure you eat plenty of foods rich in protein—fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, whole milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts and nut butters, beans, peas, lentils, soy foods, and gelatin. Incorporate these foods into your recipes. For example, you can add powdered milk to creamy dishes, cream soups, and mashed potatoes; put cheese in your scrambled eggs and casseroles; and add eggs to sandwiches and salads. If you find that meat tastes metallic, you can still eat fish, eggs, dairy products, beans, tofu, and soy milk. You can mask the metallic taste by marinating the meat in orange juice, lemon juice, Italian dressing, vinegar, sweet and sour sauce, wine, soy sauce, or teriyaki sauce. Using plastic utensils and glass cooking pots can also help lessen the metallic taste.
Your body will need plenty of fluids to stay healthy, to recover from side effects like vomiting or diarrhea, and to flush out any harmful by-products of medications. It might be quite easy to accidentally become dehydrated, so drink plenty of liquids—about eight to twelve cups a day. You can drink water, milk, and juice, as well as foods that contain water, like soups, popsicles, and gelatin. Stay away from drinks that contain caffeine, like tea, coffee, and some sodas. Talk to your treatment team about having alcohol; you may be on medication that interacts with it.
Managing loss of appetite
It is quite common to discover that your tastes and food preferences have changed after you receive treatment. You may be hungry for foods you rarely ate in the past, and you may no longer tolerate some foods you used to enjoy. If you feel sensitive to food odours, try eating foods that are cold or at room temperature. Foods served hot often have a strong smell. You can also choose foods that do not need to be cooked, such as cold sandwiches, crackers and cheese, yogurt and fruit, and cold cereal and milk. Brush your teeth and floss to get rid of bad tastes in your mouth. Rinse your mouth with a baking soda solution (1/4 teaspoon in a cup of water) to clear your taste buds before and after you eat.
For Healthy Diet Choices, download this infosheet
For a downloadable infosheet on how to manage your nutrition, please visit