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Nutrition and Cancer Survivorship

"Research really supports eating a plant-based diet in terms of a nutrition approach to cancer survivorship."
— Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, LDN 

Good Nutrition Supports Healthy Survivorship

It is important for everyone to eat well for overall health, but following a healthy diet may be even more important for cancer survivors. Some types of cancers (for example, head and neck cancer) can make it difficult to eat a healthy diet. Some survivors struggle with weight they have lost – or weight they have gained – after treatment.

Being overweight may be a risk factor for cancer recurrence. Making healthy changes to the way you eat may not guarantee cancer won't return, but it can help you feel better and also lower your chances of developing other health problems.

What You Can Do

  • Eat a variety of foods from all food groups. Be sure to ask your health care team about any foods you should avoid.
  • Fill your diet with fruits and vegetables. Experts recommend five to nine servings a day.
  • Look for high-fiber foods. These include whole-grain cereals, breads, and pastas.
  • Choose low-fat or nonfat milk and dairy products (such as cheese and yogurt).
  • Go easy on fat and salt. Both are unhealthy and make your heart and circulation work much harder than they should. Add flavor to your food by using plant-based seasonings, such as fresh herbs.
  • Try new ways to cook. It's healthier to broil, steam, bake, and poach foods than it is to fry or sauté them.
  • Eat with others. Even if your appetite is limited, the social aspect of eating is important and will help you get back on track.
  • Eat small meals. It is better to eat four to five small meals per day than two to three large meals.
  • Incorporate some exercise. Small amounts of physical activity can stimulate a decreased appetite. Exercise is also important if you want to lose extra weight or maintain a current weight.
  • Learn more about nutrition services at Dana-Farber. Our nutrition staff can help you with diet planning, cooking classes, recipes and more.

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