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Nutrition During Chemotherapy

During chemotherapy, the energy provided by a healthy diet can help you rebuild normal cells. It can also help you keep up your strength and fight infection. As a result, you may feel better and be more able to cope with side effects. Ask your doctor about your nutrition needs.

Two glasses of water,Drink Plenty of Fluids

  • Fluids help the body produce urine and decrease constipation. They help prevent kidney and bladder problems. They also help replace fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Try water, unsweetened juices, and other flavored drinks without caffeine. They flush toxins from the body. Avoid drinks with added sugar or those with artificial sweetener.

Get Enough Calories

  • Calories are fuel. The body uses this fuel to perform all of its functions, including healing.

  • It’s OK to be lean, but be sure you are not underweight. If you are, try eating more calories.

  • Eat calorie-dense foods such as avocados, peanut butter, eggs, and ice cream.

  • If you need extra calories, add butter, gravy, and sauces to foods (if tolerated).

  • Try to limit foods that are fried, greasy, or high in fat or added sugar.

Eat Protein, Fruits, and Vegetables

  • Protein builds muscle, bone, skin, and blood. It helps your body heal and fight infection. It also helps boost your energy level.

  • Good protein choices include yogurt, eggs, chicken, lean meats, beans, and peanut butter.

  • Fruits and vegetables are full of important vitamins, minerals, and fiber to help your body function properly.

  • Try to eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans.

  • Ask your doctor about instant protein powder or other supplements.

Eating Right During Treatment

Side effects may make it a little harder to eat well on some days. The following tips will help you continue to get the nutrition you need:

  • Be open to new foods and recipes.

  • Eat small portions often and slowly.

  • Have a healthy snack instead of a meal if you are not very hungry.

  • Try eating in a new setting.

  • Physical activity, such as walking, can help increase your appetite. Try to be active for at least 30 minutes each day.

  • Boost your diet by getting the vitamins and minerals you need from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  • If you live alone and are not up to cooking, ask your health care provider about Meals on Wheels or other outreach programs.

For more information, go to or call 800-ACS-2345.


Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Piccolo, Amanda, RD
Last Review Date: 1/29/2014
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