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Colorectal Cancer: In Treatment: Day To Day Living

Eat Better

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Researchers have found that patients who eat well during their treatment periods are better able to manage the side effects of treatment.

  • The best bet is simply a balanced diet high in a variety of plant sources, lots of whole grains, and moderate amounts of fish. For more details, consider the American Cancer Society's recommendations for cancer prevention noted below. Modify the ACS diet as recommended by your doctor for your particular situation.
  • Experience indicates that it is very difficult to change eating habits overnight. Instead, consider making changes a doable step at a time. For instance, make one meal a day a healthier meal for one week. 
    • Set goals and write them down so you don’t let changes slide. 
    • Change your goals as circumstances dictate. 
    • Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip. Make today and tomorrow better.
  • Consider consulting a dietitian/nutritionist to help tailor your diet to your specific situation and treatment.

This may be a time when you want to reach for unhealthy foods that you think of as your comfort foods - the foods that make you feel better when you're down or stressed. Keep comfort foods to a minimum  - enough to keep you able to stay with your health regimen. The longer you eat healthy foods, the less likely you'll need unhealthy comfort foods.

Ask your doctor the following questions:

  • Are there foods that would be particularly helpful for you to eat during treatment? 
  • Are there are foods or drinks to avoid.
  • Are there vitamins or minerals to start taking that will help you through treatment? If so, which ones does the doctor recommend?
  • Are there books or other sources he or she would recommend that may be helpful to read?

The American Cancer Society’s recommendations for a cancer prevention diet follow:

  • Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Pay attention to standard serving sizes
  • Eat smaller portions of high-calorie foods. Be aware that "low-fat" or "nonfat" does not mean "low-calorie" and that low-fat cakes, low-fat cookies, and other low-fat foods are often high in calories.
  • Switch to vegetables, fruits, and other low-calorie foods and beverages to replace calorie-dense foods and beverages such as French fries, cheeseburgers, pizza, ice cream, doughnuts and other sweets, and regular sodas.
  • When you eat away from home, choose food low in calories, fat, and sugar, and avoid large portion sizes.
  • Eat 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day.
    • Include vegetables and fruits at every meal and for snacks.
    • Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
    • Limit French fries, snack chips, and other fried vegetable products.
    • Choose 100% juice if you drink vegetable or fruit juices.
    • Choose whole grains over processed (refined) grains and sugars.
    • Choose whole grain rice, bread, pasta, and cereals.
  •  Limit intake of refined carbohydrates (starches), such as pastries, sweetened cereals, and other high-sugar foods.
  •  Limit intake of processed meats and red meats.
  •  Choose fish, poultry, or beans instead of beef, pork, and lamb.
  •  When you eat meat, choose lean cuts and eat smaller portions.
    • Prepare meat by baking, broiling, or poaching, rather than by frying or charbroiling.

NOTE: Buy, store and cook foods safely. See the next section of this document

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