Nutrition Before and After Treatment

Nutrition Before and After Treatment

Practicing healthy eating is important at all time, including before, during and after cancer treatment.

Be open and talk with your doctor, nurse and dietitian, they would like to help you develop a plan that satisfies your dietary needs. After the radiation therapy, you will be resuming your normal life.  This section provides general dietary recommendations that may help you build up immune system and stay as healthy as you can. Share the information with your caregivers, family and friends who want to know how to better care for you. They all can benefit from balanced nutrition management.


What does healthy eating look like?
  • Keep it simple.

  • Choose foods that are more whole – foods with fewer ingredients.

  • Choose clean foods – foods with fewer ingredients and without chemicals, preservatives, food dyes, artificial flavors, etc.

  • Eat balanced meals and snacks that should include carbohydrate, protein, heart healthy fat, fiber, water, vitamins and minerals.


Healthy eating recommendations

Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight

The normal range of BMI is 18.5 - 25, BMI = weight (kg) / height2 (m2).
The recommended waist circumference is below 94 cm (37 inches) for men and 80 cm (31.5 inches) for women.
Aim to maintain your body weight within the normal range through childhood and adulthood.
Avoid weight gain and increase in waist circumference throughout adulthood.

Be as physically active as you can

If you are not active before, start with brisk walking for at least 30 minutes daily. 
As fitness improves, aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (brisk walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, swimming), or at least 30 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (running, tennis, football) daily. 
Limit the time you spend on sedentary activities (watching television, sitting in front of a computer).

Limit consumption of energy-dense foods and avoid sugar-sweetened drinks. 

Try to avoid energy-dense foods, including fast foods, many pre-prepared dishes, baked goods, desserts, and candy.
Plant oils, nuts, and seeds are also energy-dense foods, but they contain important nutrients. Eat them sparingly.
Watch for calories in your drinks, such as sodas, sweet teas, smoothies with added sugar, and milkshakes.

Eat mostly foods of plant origin

Eat at least five servings of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruits daily. 

Choose whole fruit vegetables rather than commercial juices.

One serving is equal to:

1 cup raw leafy vegetable 

½ cup cooked leafy vegetable

½ cup chopped or 1 medium piece of fresh fruit 

¼ cup dried fruit 

Non-starchy vegetables include: 




Brussels sprouts






Green onions  










Summer squash



Eat whole grains and whole grain products and legumes with every meal and limit refined starchy foods. 

Whole grains and whole grain products include:



Brown rice








Whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereals

Legumes include:

Anasazi beans

Azuki beans

Black beans


Green beans

Kidney beans

Lima beans


Black-eyed peas

Green peas

Snap peas

Snow peas

Split peas


Refined starchy foods include:

Baked goods (biscuits, cakes, pastries)

Breakfast cereals

White bread, pasta, pizza

White rice

At least ⅔ of your plate should be taken up by foods from plant sources, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.

Limit use of creamy sauces, dressings, and dips with your vegetables and fruits.

People who consume starchy vegetables as staples are recommended to eat sufficient non-starchy vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
Starchy vegetables include:



Sweet potatoes




Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat. 

Limit your intake of red meat to less than 18 oz a week, very little to be processed. Select lean cuts.

Red meats include:





Choose fish, poultry, and beans instead of red meat and processed meat.

Processed meats include:


Hot dogs

Luncheon meats


⅓ or less of your plate is taken up by foods from animal sources, like fish, poultry, lean red meats, and cheese.
Prepare fish, poultry, and meat by baking, broiling, or poaching rather than by frying or charbroiling.

Limit alcoholic drinks

People who drink alcoholic drinks limit consumption to no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
One drink is equal to:

12 oz of beer

5 oz of wine

1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits

Limit consumption of salt and avoid mouldy grains/cereals and legumes.

We get sodium mostly from process foods. Reading food labels can help you identify low-sodium processed foods. Limit the sodium intake to less than 2,400 mg a day. 
Do not eat mouldy grains/cereals and legumes.

Quit smoking

Tobacco in any form is a major cause of cancer and should be entirely avoided.

Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone 

Choose nutrient-rich foods and drinks instead of dietary supplements.

Benefits of breastfeeding

Aim to breastfeed infants exclusively up to six months and continue with complementary feeding thereafter.


Food safety

Avoiding foodborne illness

  • Select low risk foods.

Pasteurized milk

Pasteurized eggs/egg products, egg dishes cooked to 160°F

Washed fresh vegetables, cooked vegetables

Hard cheese, processed cheese, cream cheese, Mozzarella, soft cheese made from pasteurized milk

  • Wash hands, knives, cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops before and after you prepare foods, especially when you prepare raw meat, poultry, and fish.

  • Scrub all raw fruits and vegetables before you eat, peel, or cut them. 

  • Use separated knives, cutting boards, and dishes for raw foods and ready-to-eat foods.

  • Cook meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and eggs to safe minimum internal temperatures.

Beef, pork, veal, lamb, steaks, roasts & chops to 145°F

Beef, pork, veal, lamb, ground to 160°F

Turkey, chicken, duck, whole, pieces & ground to 165°F

Fish to 145°F

Cook shrimp, lobster, and crab until they turn red; cook clams, mussels, and oysters until the shells open.

Cook eggs until both yolks and whites are firm.

  • Reheat leftovers and cooked meat to 165°F.

  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, fish, and eggs within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing.

  • Thaw meat, poultry, and fish in the refrigerator, in cold water, or defrost them in the microwave. Do not leave them at room temperature.

  • Do not eat foods or drinks that are expired.

  • Do not eat at buffets, salad bars, or self-service restaurants.

  • Do not eat moldy foods, including blue cheese and Roquefort.





World Cancer Research Fund, American Institute for Cancer Research, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. Click here to access online document