Nutrition Services

Our team of Registered Dietitians provides evidenced based, expert nutrition counseling to patients and their caregivers as an integral part of cancer care.

Make an Appointment 617-724-4000

Overview

Nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment. Staying well-nourished is essential for maintaining energy and strength, healing the body, and fighting infection. Our team of registered dietitians provides evidenced based, expert nutrition counseling to patients and their caregivers as an integral part of cancer care. Their guidance can help you manage side effects and optimize wellness both during and after cancer treatment. They will work with you around your diet preferences to create an eating and hydration plan based on issues you may be experiencing, including:

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Taste changes
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Food choices on a soft or liquid diet
  • Tube feeding support

Our dietitians are available for consultations at our main Boston location and at Mass General Waltham.

Meet the Team

  • Carol Sullivan MS, RD, CSO, LDN

    Senior Clinical Nutritionist

    Carol Sullivan is board certified as a specialist in oncology. She has been with Mass General since she began her dietetic internship in 2004, and began dedicating all of her professional time to the Mass General Cancer Center in 2008. She enjoys building relationships with her patients and their families to provide medical nutrition therapy individually tailored to the specific needs of patients who are dealing with cancer.

    She has also enjoyed speaking to multiple cancer support groups including Head and Neck, Prostate and the Cancer Center Transitions program. She has also had the pleasure of speaking at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and The New England Carcinoid Connection local chapter meeting.

    She attended the University of Vermont where she received her BS in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2004. Then went on to attend the Massachusetts General Hospital dietetic internship before receiving a Master’s of Science with a concentration in Nutrition and Media Technologies at Framingham State University.

    Outside of Mass General, Carol enjoys cooking and baking, running, yoga, skiing, and spending time with her husband, toddler and dog. She also spends time counseling other runners and athletes for peak performance.


     

  • Alicia Anskis, MS, RD, CSO, LDN

    Clinical Nutritionist

    Alicia is a board certified as a specialist in oncology. She is passionate about providing evidence-based, individualized nutrition recommendations to her oncology patients. Alicia loves to cook and utilizes this knowledge to help her patients find creative ways to modify their diets for their individualized nutrition and symptom management needs. She also enjoys speaking to both patients and the general public on nutrition for cancer treatment and survivorship. Alicia sees patients throughout the main campus Cancer Center in Boston, as well as at the Mass General Waltham location.

    Alicia previously served as a clinical dietitian at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center. She also worked as a clinical dietitian at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she worked with a variety of health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and women’s health.

    Alicia received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Syracuse University and her master’s degree in nutrition from Drexel University. She completed her dietetic internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.


     

  • Ashley Draviam, MS, RD, LDN

    Clinical Nutritionist

    Ashley Draviam is a Clinical Dietitian at the Mass General Cancer Center. She began working here in 2015, after completing her dietetic internship and nutrition training at Mass General in 2014. Ashley sees patients throughout the main campus Cancer Center, and follows pediatric patients in the Proton Center. She has been a contributor to the PartiQOL newsletter for a multi-center prostate cancer trial, and has given numerous presentations on nutrition and cancer to patients and family members.

    Ashley attended Williams College and received her BA in Spanish and Psychology in 2004. She spent five years coaching elite athletes at a ski racing academy in California, before returning to Boston to complete her Masters in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University concurrently with the Didactic Program in Dietetics at Simmons College.

    She spends much of her free time in the mountains and the outdoors, skiing, hiking, biking, and swimming. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, traveling the world to visit new places, and spending time with family and friends.

Nutrition Tips

Tips for Eating Well During Cancer Treatment

Eating well while undergoing cancer treatment can be challenging. While not all patients experience symptoms, common side effects such as poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, bowel irregularities, and taste changes can interfere with your ability to get the nutrition you need to feel your best and heal from treatment.

Here are some tips for making it easier to get the nutrition you need when you experience common treatment side effects.

If you are losing weight or have no appetite:

  • Always have high calorie and high protein foods on hand. Good choices include nut butters, avocado, olive oil, eggs, cheese, full-fat yogurt, granola, nuts and seeds.
  • Eat smaller portions, but more often – aim for every 2-3 hours
  • Fortify foods with extra calories as much as possible. Every little bit counts. Use healthy fats when cooking – olive oil, canola oil, flax oil. Drizzle olive oil into soups, mashed potatoes, eggs, pasta, hot cereal. Stir peanut butter into hot cereals or add to a smoothie. Use Ensure Plus/Boost Plus or other bottled smoothies in place of water for smoothies, and for making instant pudding.
  • If your usual dinner plate seems overwhelming, use a small plate instead
  • Drink beverages between meals instead of with meals, so you don’t fill up on fluids
  • Choose high calorie fluids (juice, milk, or frappes) instead of water
  • Drink your nutrition - have a smoothie, frappe, or nutrition supplement drink as a meal replacement or snack.

If you have nausea and/or vomiting:

  • Take your prescribed anti-nausea medicine 30 to 60 minutes before you eat.
  • Eat small portions of foods that are easy to digest. This includes low-fat and low-fiber foods.
  • Avoid fried, spicy, very sweet or fatty foods.
  • If you are vomiting, drink plenty of fluids to replace losses and prevent dehydration.
  • Try not to skip meals. Having an empty stomach can worsen nausea. Instead, try a light meal or snack every 2-3 hrs.
  • Choose cold or room temperature foods, which emit less odors that can trigger nausea.
  • Ginger may help improve symptoms of nausea. Try ginger tea, homemade ginger ale, ginger candies, or add freshly grated ginger to chicken or fish, or in soups, stews, and smoothies.
  • Lemon may also reduce feelings of nausea. Add fresh lemon slices to your water, sip on lemonade, lemon drops, lemon ice, or try lemon aromatherapy.
  • If you experience nausea just thinking about food, try relaxation techniques such as meditation or acupuncture (ask your doctor for a referral).

If you have diarrhea:

  • Choose small meals that are bland, low in fiber, and low in fat. Good choices include crackers, white or oat-based bread, bananas, oatmeal, plain or vanilla yogurt, canned fruit, applesauce, eggs, plain chicken or fish, tofu, well-cooked and peeled vegetables, skinless potatoes, rice, noodles, soups, and smoothies.
  • Drink plenty of fluids such as broths, diluted juices, and electrolyte beverages.
  • Limit lactose-containing milk and milk products. Substitute with Lactaid, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or other dairy substitutes.
  • Salt and potassium are often lost through diarrhea. Choose foods and beverages such as sports drinks, Pedialyte, coconut water, crackers, pretzels, diluted fruit juices, bananas, and potatoes to replace losses.
  • Sugar-free gum, candies, beverages and other foods containing sorbitol may cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Avoid or limit these.

If you have constipation:

  • Eat more fiber. Eating more fiber-containing foods can help your colon pass stool. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking an adequate amount of liquid helps food to pass more easily through your intestines. Try to drink at least 8cups of non-caffeinated liquids daily. Liquids include water, fruit juice, coconut water, vegetable juice, sports drinks, milk, soups, popsicles and decaf tea/coffee. Try drinking warm or hot beverages, which can help to stimulate the bowels.
  • Prunes or prune juice contain the natural laxative sorbitol, which can help with constipation.
  • Be as active as you can.
  • Ask your doctor or dietitian if you should use bowel medications. These may include stool softeners, fiber supplements, and/or laxatives.

If you have taste changes:

  • Flavor foods with tart, tangy, and salty seasoning and sauces (however, if you have mouth sores, avoid this tip). Sauces marinades: BBQ sauce, hot sauce, pizza, tomato, teriyaki, sweet and sour, Worcestershire sauce, salsa, fruit marinades, hummus (garlic, dill, jalapeño), guacamole, vinegar. Pickles, capers. Citrus fruits/juices
  • Add herbs and spices such as curry, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, paprika, onion, pepper, oregano, basil, mint
  • Make drinks more flavorful by adding a splash of lemon/lime to water, trying flavored or fruit infused waters, or sipping on lemonade
  • If foods have metallic or bitter taste, eat with plastic or wooden utensils, and avoid drinking from cans.
  • If foods taste too salty, choose foods that are naturally sweet such as fresh fruit, yogurt, smoothies, cereal and milk, dried fruit, pudding, unsalted trail mix, Nutella with fruit, sorbet, ice cream.
  • Rinse your mouth with an oral rinse before and after eating to clear any “off” tastes: Mix 1 tsp baking soda in 1-2 cups water.
  • Keep your mouth clean and brush your teeth to combat bad tastes.
  • Suck on sugar free lemon drops, mints, or gum between meals.

Our team of registered dietitians can help make a personalized nutrition plan to fit your individual needs and food preferences. We encourage you to book an appointment by calling 617-724-4000.

Recommended Resources

Websites:

Books:

  • Cancer Fighting Kitchen Cookbook by Rebecca Katz
  • Foods that Fight Cancer by Richard Béliveau, PhD and Denis Gingras, PhD
  • Eating Well Through Cancer by Holly Clegg, Gerald Miletello, MD
  • Eat, Drink and Be Healthy by Walter C Willet, MD and Patrick J. Skerritt
  • Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD

Contact Us

Patients of the Mass General Cancer Center are encouraged to book appointments with our Registered Dietitians. Appointments can be made by calling 617-724-4000.

Make an Appointment 617-724-4000

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