Nutrition may be the last thing on one’s mind after a cancer diagnosis, but there couldn’t be a more important time to give your body all that it needs.  


Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a frightening moment in an individual’s life. It may leave you and your loved ones feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and desperate for answers on what to expect as you begin treatment.

While searching for answers, you will learn that nutrition plays a big role in your treatment journey.

You’ll also find many miraculous stories through restrictive diets that cured their cancer or led to remission. While there’s no doubt good nutrition can play a restorative and healing role in your body, these stories are often just that: stories. 

The truth is, drastic changes in diet are not necessarily needed to fuel the body during this fight. The primary focus should be on a few of the following:

1. Do your best to achieve adequate energy intake.

If there is one nutrition-related tip to focus on, it is this one. Research shows that individuals with cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with malnutrition, which has adverse impacts on response to treatment, prognosis, and survival. The side effects from cancer treatment such as nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, or constipation can influence your ability to eat and can put you at risk for malnutrition. Some simple strategies to help make sure you are achieving adequate energy intake include: eating every two to three hours, focusing on the addition of foods versus the elimination of foods, and prepping some meals to have in the freezer for days when energy is low.

2. Incorporate more high-protein foods into eating patterns.

Protein can help preserve muscle mass and keep the immune system healthy. When diagnosed with cancer, you often need more protein than usual. If possible, try to eat a protein-containing food at each meal and snack. Foods that have protein include meat, poultry, fish, lentils, dry beans, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, nuts, and nut butters.

3. Make fluids a priority.

Unsurprisingly, fluids are essential to health because body cells need water to function. Due to cancer treatment, it can be easy to become dehydrated. Try to consistently sip on fluids such as still or sparkling water, hot or iced tea, juice, or milk throughout the day to stay hydrated.

4. Rest, relaxation, and self-compassion are key.

Fighting cancer is physical and emotionally exhausting, which can greatly impact quality of life. Drastically changing eating patterns during this time may serve to only further perpetuate the stress and deplete energy. Taking time to rest, relax, and practice self-compassion are extremely important and can help you to effectively cope with the cancer diagnosis. Consider making a list of things that serve to help you rest, relax, and cultivate self-compassion; come back to this list when you need it throughout treatment.

Nourishing the body and providing it with energy during this time does not need to be difficult. Keep things simple and try to stay away from any drastic changes that are unnecessary.

Rest assured you’re doing the best you can for yourself, which is absolutely enough.


Kaycie Lindeman, RDN is a Registered Dietitian in Minneapolis, MN. Having worked with cancer patients in the clinical setting, Kaycie advocates for the supportive role of nourishing foods in one’s body during treatment and beyond. Through her experiences, Kaycie extends her work towards helping women who are ready to reclaim their health through a non-diet approach and stand up to society’s unrealistic beauty standards.