March is National Nutrition Month. What is nutrition and why is it important – especially for cancer survivors? Nutrition is eating good, nutrient filled foods that your body needs to perform at its best. Nutrition takes form in several groups of foods: Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Dairy, Protein, and Oils. Our bodies need a balance of each of these food groups. One of the best ways to make sure you are getting the right amount of each of these food groups is to follow the MyPlate model by the USDA.
How can this help me through my cancer journey and on the road to recovery? As you are being treated for cancer or even after cancer treatments, getting the nutrition you need is pertinent in making sure you are feeling the best you can and having the energy to take on the day’s tasks. Food is fuel for your body; Just like a car will not run without gasoline, so your body will not run without the right foods. Making sure you are getting the right nutrition with the foods you are eating will also help you to feel better and provide energy.
How do I get the nutrition I need when facing a cancer diagnosis? Below are a few tips on how to maximize your nutrition:
- Eat a good breakfast Whether you are undergoing cancer treatment or have completed your treatment, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is because breakfast is your body’s first source of energy for the day. For cancer patients struggling with loss of appetite, most individuals notice their appetite seems to be best in the morning. Take advantage of this by choosing high calorie, high protein foods. Eating a good breakfast will help you to jump start your day with the right nutrients and energy to propel you through the day
- Have some snacks Most individuals typically eat three meals a day and may not realize that our bodies are hungry in between meals. This is especially true for individuals undergoing cancer treatment. Eating snacks will assure that you are meeting your calorie and basic nutrition needs for the day. Keep snacks on hand for those long treatment days and be sure to keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with items that will be easy to grab. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help to better manage your energy n and assure you are getting the right nutrients for the day.
- Eat a variety Along with eating the right amounts of each of the food groups, one helpful way to check if you are getting a variety of nutrients is to create a colorful plate. The more colorful your plate is, the more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you are incorporating in your diet. These essential nutrients and antioxidants have cancer fighting properties which may help fight against existing cancer cells as well reduce your risk for developing a cancer recurrence. A plate filled with different colors could look like: baked chicken (tan), carrots (orange), green beans (green), whole grain, brown rice (brown), and strawberries and blueberries (red and blue). Use these colors and more to try to create a plate without repeating any colors.
- Keep track of what you have eaten One of the easiest ways to see if you are getting the right nutrition for the day is to keep a log of all the things you have eaten in a day. This is especially true while you are undergoing cancer treatment. You may have been experiencing loss of appetite or additional side effects that have affected your desire to eat. Eating too little calories may lead to unwanted weight loss and malnutrition. Keeping a log of the foods you eat and a symptom diary may also help you to find foods that could be causing or making side effects worse. Logging your food for the day is a great tool to help you evaluate your overall diet and ways you can improve your nutritional intake.
|Blog Author: Jen Hartman, RD, LND|