Foods to Try During Treatment

Cancer treatment can place a lot of nutritional demand on your body. It is important to try to consistently consume a healthy diet and to drink nourishing beverages.  The main nutritional goals during this time are to maintain a healthy weight and eat healthy foods that supply your body with calories and nutrients for energy, repair, recovery, and healing. 

A healthful eating pattern includes plenty of vegetables and fruit, moderate amounts of whole grains, and plant protein sources like nuts, beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh, along with modest portions of fish, poultry, lean meats, and nonfat or low-fat dairy foods. Side effects of cancer therapy may affect your eating habits and nutritional status. Here are suggestions for managing common eating difficulties during and after treatment.


Nausea is a common side effect of cancer treatment. It can sometimes be accompanied by vomiting. Anticipation of a treatment session can cause nausea in some cases.

  • Foods to try: Toast and crackers, yogurt, sherbet, popsicles, pretzels, angel food cake, canned fruits (peaches, pears, fruit cocktail), skinned chicken (baked, boiled), oatmeal, broths
  • Foods to avoid: Any food that’s fatty, greasy, fried, spicy, very sweet or has a strong odor

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Once vomiting is under control, try small amounts of clear liquids or soft foods.

  • Drinks to try: Cranberry juice, cool broth or flat soda (carbonated beverages can lead to vomiting in some people)
  • Foods to try: Soft foods such as cream of wheat, pudding, frozen yogurt or gelatin

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Diarrhea is another side effect that can be caused by cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and other medications, radiation therapy to the abdomen, and surgery. Other potential causes include infection, food sensitivity and emotional upset. Call your health practitioner if you have severe or long-term diarrhea, which may cause dehydration, nutrient loss and other health problems. Medications may be helpful.

  • Foods to try: Rice, noodles, hard-boiled eggs, bananas, puréed vegetables, applesauce, white bread, skinned turkey or chicken, fish, mashed potatoes
  • Foods to avoid: Raw vegetables and fruits; high-fiber vegetables, like broccoli, corn, beans, cabbage, cauliflower and peas; onions and strong spices; greasy, fatty or fried foods; alcoholic beverages

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Constipation can result from some cancer treatments and pain medications. Constipation can also happen if you are not eating enough fiber or drinking enough fluids. Relying on tube feedings or physical inactivity for extended periods of time can also cause constipation.

  • Drinks to try: Water, prune juice, warm juices, decaffeinated teas and hot lemonade. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day.
  • Foods to try: High-fiber vegetables, like broccoli, corn, beans, cabbage, cauliflower and peas; whole-grain breads

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Sore Mouth, Tongue and Throat

Soreness in the mouth or throat can result from cancer treatment or for other reasons. See your health practitioner to ensure that the soreness is not due to an infection. If it is a side effect of cancer treatment it will generally clear up in time.

  • Foods to try: Bananas, apple sauce, watermelon, canned fruits, peach, pear or apricot nectars, cottage cheese, yogurt, milkshakes, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, custards, pudding, scrambled eggs, oatmeal
  • Foods to avoid: Hot or spicy foods, alcohol, hard to chew foods.

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