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Chemotherapy: FOLFOX

FOLFOX and Food

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Food and FOLFOX involves the right foods, dealing with eating problems that may occur, assistance with food, tips to get the most from food and drink, and avoiding infections when dealing with food.

The right foods

During treatment, it is important to eat to keep up your strength to deal with the side effects of treatment, to keep up your weight, and to help with a faster healing. 

Ask your oncologist about any changes you may need to make in your diet during treatment. If he or she doesn’t know, ask to be referred to a nutritionist/dietitian who helps people with colorectal cancer.  For information about what a nutritionist/dietitian does, choosing a nutritionist/dietician, and insurance issues, click here

  • During FOLFOX treatment, you may need extra protein and calories such as extra milk, cheese and eggs. For a list of easy to eat protein foods and liquids, click here
  • If you have trouble chewing and swallowing, you may need to add sauces and gravies.  For a list of foods and drinks that are easy to swallow, click here.
  • Sometimes, you may need to eat low-fiber foods instead of those with high fiber.

If you are already on a special diet for a health condition such as diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease, it is even more important to speak with a doctor and dietitian. Your doctor and dietitian can advise you about how to follow your special diet while coping with eating problems caused by cancer treatment.

Eating problems

When you are healthy, eating enough food is usually not a problem. However, when you are dealing with colorectal cancer and treatment, eating can be a real challenge. There is no way to know if you will have eating problems and, if so, how bad they will be. You may have just a few problems or none at all.Your doctor, nurse, or dietitian can tell you more about the types of eating problems you might expect and ways to manage them.

If you start to have eating problems, tell your doctor or nurse right away.

For tips about eating when you don't feel like it or feel full, click here.

If you need assistance with food either because you are too tired to cook or cannot afford healthy food:

  • Spread the word among your friends that cooking may be difficult for you. Home cooked meals provided by friends have been said to have the taste of love in them.  
    • It may help if you let them know specifically what you can and cannot eat. Friends are more than willing to accommodate you. 
    • Friends can organize meals through such websites as MealTrain offsite link where you can also list foods you do and do not like.
  • Food can be delivered to your home. 
    • Commercial companies deliver ingredients for ready-to-cook meals to your home. For instance:
    • There are also delivery services that provide cooked meals.To find a delivery service in your area, check with:
      • The American Cancer Society (Tel. 800.ACS.2345)
      • A local religious or fraternal organization
      • The Department of Aging of the state in which you live. You can locate your state’s agency by clicking here.  offsite link
  • If you have difficulty paying for food, you may qualify for assistance. For information, click here

 Ways you can get ready to eat well

  • Fill the refrigerator, cupboard, and freezer with healthy foods. Make sure to include items you can eat even when you feel sick.
  • Stock up on foods that need little or no cooking, such as frozen dinners and ready-to-eat cooked foods.
  • Cook some foods ahead of time and freeze individual meal-sized portions.
  • Ask friends or family to help you shop and cook during treatment. Maybe a friend can set up a schedule of the tasks that need to be done and the people who will do them. There are web sites that make this easy to do. For example, offsite link

Tips to get the most from foods and drinks

During treatment, you may have good days and bad days when it comes to food. Here are some ways to manage:

  • Eat plenty of protein and calories when you can to help keep up your strength and rebuild tissues harmed by cancer treatment. For wasy ways to add protein to your diet, click here.
  • Eat your favorite foods on days you do not have treatment. 
  • Eat when you have the biggest appetite. For many people, this is in the morning. You might want to eat a bigger meal early in the day and drink liquid meal replacements later on.
  • Eat those foods that you can, even if it is only one or two items. Stick with these foods until you are able to eat more. You might also drink liquid meal replacements for extra calories and protein.
  • Keep a variety of protein-rich snacks available that you can eat throughout the day. For a list of nutritious snacks, click here
  • Avoid snacks that make treatment-related side effects worse. For example, popcorn can make diarrhea worse. For more information, see the section about side effects. 
  • Do not worry if you cannot eat at all some days. Spend this time finding other ways to feel better, and start eating when you can. Tell your doctor if you cannot eat for more than 2 days.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
    • It is even more important to get plenty to drink on days when you cannot eat.
    • Drinking a lot helps your body get the liquid it needs.
    • Most adults should drink 8 to 12 cups of liquid a day. You may find this easier to do if you keep a water bottle nearby. See the list of clear liquids for other ideas.
    • Alcohol should not be included in the list of liquids to drink.

Take special care with food to avoid infections. To learn about:

  • Food safety in general, click here.
  • Guidelines for the safe purchase of food, click here
  • Guidelines for the safe handling, cooking and storage of food, click here  
  • Guidelines for eating out safely, click here  
  • How to avoid infection from food when your immune system is particularly weak, click here 


  • Many people think they can help their body fight cancer by eating certain foods or taking vitamins or supplements. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, there are no studies that prove that any special diet, food, vitamin, mineral, dietary supplement, herb, or combination of these can slow cancer, cure it, or keep it from coming back. In fact, some of these products can cause other problems by changing how your cancer treatment works.
  • Talk with your doctor, nurse, or dietitian before going on a special diet or taking any supplements. To avoid problems, be sure to follow their advice.

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