nutritional guidelines for chemotherapy

Diet for the Day of Chemotherapy

Eat lightly on your chemotherapy day. Eat small portions, slowly. Avoid fatty, greasy or spicy foods. Before you leave for your treatment, eat light bland foods.

Examples of good choices are:

  • Fresh fruit and cottage cheese
  • Cereal and milk
  • Fruit yogurt
  • Poached egg and toast
  • Ramen noodles
  • Chicken rice soup and ½ turkey sandwich

During Chemotherapy Itself

If you feel all right, eat small, bland, light meals like those above, or have crackers and low acid juices (apple, grape or fruit nectars). You might enjoy hard candy like lemon drops or mints to help with unpleasant tastes. If you don’t feel like eating during chemotherapy, you don’t have to.

Diet for Approximately 2-3 Days after Chemotherapy

  • Drink small amounts of fluid frequently. Drink at least 10 cups per day to prevent dehydration and to remove the by-products of chemotherapy.
  • Drink a variety of fluids. Do not drink only water. Include apple juice, grape/white grape juice, fruit nectars, clear soups, soda, Gatorade, Power Burst, Popsicles and sherbet, etc.  Water gives fluid; soups give salt (sodium); juices give potassium, and other drinks and watery foods give calories. Acid juices like orange juice can be irritating to your already sensitive stomach. Orange flavored drinks are fine.
  • Eat small meals and eat frequently throughout the day rather than 3 large meals. Take only sips of fluid with meals. Drinking large amounts of fluid with meals may cause feelings of fullness and bloating. If you feel full, then you might not eat the calories you need.
  • Eat lower fat, bland foods. Greasy and spicy foods can irritate the stomach and cause nausea.
  • Eat cool foods that have little aroma or odor. Hot foods often have stronger odors.
  • Rest after eating. If you have problems with nausea or heartburn, do not lie flat after eating.  Relax in a reclined position with your head up. Focus on deep, natural breathing and wear loose clothing.
  • Take anti-nausea medications as recommended by your physician. If you feel nauseated, don’t wait to take your medication. Take it right away.
  • NOTE:  Don’t worry if you don’t feel like eating solid foods. It is most important to take fluids.  Drink small amounts of beverages every 15-20 minutes as tolerated. Avoid eating your favorite foods for the first few days after chemotherapy to avoid a permanent dislike of these foods due to potential chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting.
  • Do not assume that the cause of an episode of nausea was caused by the food you ate most recently. You may eliminate food from your diet that is nutritious and easy to digest because you think it caused the nausea. The nausea is caused by the treatment you are receiving.

Fluid Guidlines

Vary types of liquids that you drink as indicated in the table below. Do not drink diet beverages if you have not been able to eat any solid food.

Even if you are diabetic, you need to take in calories and water.

Miso Soup
Chicken Rice Soup
Chicken Noodle Soup
Apricot Nectar
Peach Nectar
Apple Juice
Grape Juice

Homemade Sports Drink/Gatorade

1 QUART Kool Aid + ½ teaspoon salt + ¼ teaspoon salt substitute + a few drops of lemon juice to taste. If the taste is too strong, add more Kool Aid.

Sample Menu

  • Breakfast: Apple juice, toast and jelly, poached egg, tea
  • Snack: Graham crackers, grape juice
  • Lunch: Broth, turkey sandwich with light mayonnaise, sherbet, tea
  • Snack: Ginger ale, crackers
  • Dinner: Chicken rice soup, Jell-o
  • Snack: Popsicle, watermelon

Throughout the Day

Nutritious liquids like juice, nectar, soda, ginger ale, instant breakfast, punch, Gatorade.