What To Expect As a Cancer Patient

What to eat and drink

Follow these tips for eating healthy and staying hydrated during your cancer treatment.

Recommended foods

Fruits & vegetables
  • Fresh, frozen, dried, or canned (fruits not in syrup, and low-sodium vegetables)
Whole grains
  • Whole grain breads, cereals, rice, and pastas
  • Add wheat germ or ground flax seed to foods to increase fiber
  • Product labels should say “whole grain” rather than “enriched”
  • Vary your protein food choices
    • soy products, such as tofu, soy milk or edamame
    • beans, peas or lentils
    • eggs, egg whites or egg substitute
    • low fat dairy products
    • nuts, seeds, or nut butters (as tolerated)
    • lean cuts of meat (round or loin)
    • poultry, fish and shellfish
  • Limit cooking meats at high temperatures (grilled, fried or broiled)
  • Try baking or roasting meats
Healthy fats
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Seeds and nut butters
  • Olives
  • Olive, canola or peanut oils

Drinks For Cancer Patients

Staying properly hydrated is important for everyone – especially those undergoing cancer treatments and radiation therapy. Possible side effects of radiation or chemotherapy such as diarrhea, nausea or vomiting can put you at increased risk of becoming dehydrated. Follow these tips to make sure you are getting enough fluids.

  • Aim to drink 6 to 8 cups of fluid per day
  • Keep a water bottle with you and take sips throughout the day
  • Drink liquids an hour before or after eating to avoid fullness 
  • Drink even if you are not thirsty

What counts as fluid?

Broth, carbonated beverages, fruit juices, Italian ice, Popsicles, gelatin, tea, water, nutritional supplements, children’s electrolyte drinks (such as Pedialyte), pudding and soups can all help to keep you hydrated.

Learn more about nutrition

Special Cancer Diets

Mouth Care
Food Safety
Managing Radiation
Therapy Side Effects