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.
Explore Nutrition Services
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:
Nausea and vomiting
Food choices on a soft or liquid diet
Tube feeding support
Our dietitians are available for consultation at the Boston, Waltham and Danvers locations.
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).
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.
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.
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, jalapeno), 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.
Açai Smoothie Bowl - Recommended for: Taste Changes, High Calorie, High Protein, Nausea/Vomiting, Poor Appetite.
Many cancer treatments cause changes in bowel movements and frequency. In this webinar led by clinical dietitians Samantha Bateman and Meagan Currell, you'll learn how to improve constipation and diarrhea with changes in your diet.
In this video, Amy Comander, MD, Carol Sullivan, RD, and Samantha Bateman, RD review evidence-based nutrition recommendations for cancer survivors, and discuss how food can be used to strengthen your body during treatment and beyond.