Once cancer treatment is complete it is time to restore and rejuvenate the body by feeding it with the best foods for optimal nutrition. Nutrition status, physical activity, and body weight all play a role in preventing cancer relapse or managing a chronic cancer.
Eat a wide variety of colors of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals that fight against cancer. Each color contains a different phytochemical. A wide variety of colors introduces more types of phytochemicals into the body.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great alternative to fresh produce.
Choose complex carbohydrates for increased energy.
- Select complex carbohydrates like whole grains (oats, wheat, brown rice, whole grain pasta) and whole fruits and vegetables.
- Complex carbohydrates are digested slowly due to their high fiber content, providing sustained energy.
- Choose grain products that have whole wheat or a whole grain flour listed as one of the first 3 ingredients.
- Avoid highly processed and refined grains (white enriched flour, baked goods, snack foods, sweets).
- A serving of whole grain is one slice of bread, ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta, and ½ cup of whole grain cold cereals and oatmeal.
Choose lean protein most of the time.
- Choose lean proteins such as beans, white meat chicken and turkey, and fish. Other good sources of protein are eggs, nuts and tofu.
- To make sure that you are getting enough protein, aim to eat a source of protein at every meal.
- Limit red meat to less than 18 ounces per week. Red meat includes beef, pork, and lamb.
Incorporate good fats into meals and snacks.
- Eat foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as avocados, fish, and nuts.
- Avoid fried foods and foods containing trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils.
Limit sweets and simple sugars. Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Choose fruits to satisfy cravings for sweets. Sweets provide the body with little nutritional value.
- Eat sweets in moderation, such as on special occasions.
Drink plenty of water.
- Staying hydrated is important for healthy bodily function.
- Limit caffeine as too much caffeine may lead to dehydration.
- Avoid beverages with added sugars.
- Aim for 64 ounces of unsweetened, caffeine-free fluids per day. If you are not drinking any water, start slowly and gradually increase water intake.
Eat consistently throughout the day to avoid overeating.
- Five to six small meals per day eaten every 2-3 hours help to keep blood sugar levels more stable.
- Smaller, more frequent meals help with weight management by encouraging metabolic rate to increase.
- Smaller, more frequent meals allow for better absorption of nutrients.
Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight for your height.
- Eat healthy by following the guidelines on this page.
- Consult with a registered dietitian to determine individual energy needs and a realistic goal weight.
- Monitor food intake and measure portion sizes.
- Begin to track food intake in a journal. You can use our worksheets or a mobile app or web-based programs such as LLS HealthManger™, MyPlate Calorie Counter or MyFitnessPal to easily track your food intake.
- The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. This time can be broken up over several days.
- If not currently exercising, gradually work toward 20-30 minutes daily. This can be split up into 10 or more minute increments, if needed.
- A regular exercise program may also help to minimize stress and improve mental health.
- Choose an enjoyable activity for exercise, such as walking, swimming, or taking a dance class. Enlist a friend or relative as an accountability partner.
Choose nutritious foods instead of nutrition supplements.
- Choose food first as the primary source for vitamin and minerals. Ask a registered dietitian for guidance on vitamins, minerals, and other nutrition supplements.
- Do not rely on supplements for cancer prevention.
- For more information, read What Do I Need To Know About Supplements?
Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Alcohol is a contributing factor to many types of cancer.
- Alcohol provides the body with calories but not any nutrients.
- Talk to your primary care provider (PCP) for more information on how to improve your overall health and well-being.
- Download the free publication Healthy Behaviors from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) for more healthy lifestyle tips.
- Download the free publication The Nutrition Handbook: Feeding Your Family from Meal Planning to Mealtime for more.