If you are undergoing treatment for breast cancer, it may be difficult to eat as you usually do.
The illness can leave you feeling too tired to run errands, let alone cook. Some breast cancer treatments can also make you feel nausea, loss of appetite, and a sore mouth.
However, eating a balanced diet is especially important if you have a serious illness such as breast cancer. Getting enough nutrients can boost your energy levels and help your body heal from treatments.
If you’re living with breast cancer and undergoing treatment, you may not always feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen — and thatis okay. You may be able to have food delivered by a professional or ask loved ones to help.
But if you’re feeling well enough to cook, here are some specific recipes that can help you adapt to certain breast cancer challenges.
Nausea is a common side effect of many chemotherapy drugs. You may find it easier to eat several small meals rather than a few large meals made from simple ingredients throughout the day.
For example, a classic baked potato can be an acceptable small meal if youfeel nauseous.
Here are some other recipes to try if you’re nauseous:
- Chicken rice soup. This classic soup is easily digestible and comforting with mild flavours. This recipe makes a batch large enough to freeze leftovers.
- lemon smoothie. The sour smell and taste of lemon in this smoothie can help with nausea. In addition, it may be easier to drink a nutritious drink instead of chewing food.
- Baked oatmeal. The smooth texture and flavors of this oatmeal can make eating more bearable when you feel sick.
Severe nausea can make it very difficult to eat enough food. like youIf you regularly experience this symptom, talk to your cancer care team. They may be able to prescribe medications to reduce nausea.
Here are some other tips for eating when youfeel sick from cancer treatment:
- Try bland, simple foods that don’t have strong odors.
- Avoid foods that are high in fat or spicy.
- Sniffing fresh lemon, drinking ginger ale, or chewing ginger candies may help.
- Eat in a comfortable place that is not too hot or stuffy.
Many people with breast cancer have changes in their appetite. You may not be interested in food or feel full faster than usual.
However, it is important to find ways to adapt to a low appetite. Giving your body the nutrients it needs is important when undergoing treatment and coping with the stress of illness.
Here are some tips to help with a low appetite:
- Set a timer to remind yourself to eat every few hours.
- Make food more appealing by adding sauces, oils, cheese or dressings. This can boost flavor, calories and nutrients.
- Take a walk or get some fresh air to see if it helps to whet your appetite.
- Make meals more enjoyable by eating with someone or while watching your favorite show.
- Consider smoothies or shakes if drinking feels easier than eating.
Here are some high-calorie, protein-packed recipes to help you get the most out of every meal:
- High protein mac ‘n’ cheese. Making cheese, milk and Greek yogurt this mac ‘n’ cheese a protein-rich meal. This recipe has several optional add-ins so you can customize it to your liking.
- High protein blueberry smoothie† Try to sip this smoothie throughout the day for some extra nourishment.
- Coconut banana muffins. There are enough nutrients in it these muffins, which freeze well for a quick snack. Spread on some peanut butter to increase the protein content.
Research suggests eating more fruits and vegetables may help improve survival prospects in people with breast cancer.
Here are some recipes with fruits or vegetables:
Here are some other tips for adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet:
- Wash and cut fruits and vegetables ahead of time so they are ready to eat.
- Add extra vegetables to pasta or rice dishes.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables make washing or chopping unnecessary, so it can be helpful to have them on hand.
A common side effect of chemotherapy is a sore mouth or throat, which can make it difficult to eat. Damage to cells in those areas can cause discomfort, but it usually goes away after you finish the treatments.
If you have a sore mouth, you may find it easier to eat soft, textured foods that aren’t too acidic or spicy. It can also help to cut food into small, bite-sized pieces and use sauces or gravies to soften your food.
Here are some recipes to try if you have a sore mouth during breast cancer treatments:
- smoothie bowl. This is a simple smoothie bowl without any citrus, which can be irritating. If the consistency is still too much, you can add more liquid and drink through a straw.
- Muffin tin eggs. This recipe comes in three different versions, so you can create a version with flavors you love. Depending on how your mouth feels, you can keep the recipe even simpler, using just eggs and cheese.
- Pumpkinsoup. this soup is creamy and smooth with a mild taste. Like most soups and stews, it freezes well.
Cancer-related fatigue is not your everyday form of fatigue. This is the completely energy-free form of fatigue that makes it difficult to do anything. When you’re so exhausted, it can be hard to eat enough food, let alone buy and prepare ingredients.
Here are some tips for managing meals when you suffer from fatigue:
- If friends ask how they can help, be ready with a grocery list or meal requests.
- Arrange a grocery or meal delivery service.
- Consider using a slow cooker or Instant Pot for hands-off cooking.
- Fill your pantry with convenient, nutritious snacks, such as fruit or nut butter crackers, to enjoy when you don’t feel like cooking.
If you’re feeling energized, consider making large batches of meals that you can freeze and reheat later. Here are some breast cancer recipes that are suitable for freezing:
- Lentil stew. Recommended as part of the Mediterranean diet, lentils are a great source of protein and fiber.
- Baking chicken pasta† This mild tasting casserole is a delicious comfort food. Consider skipping the chili flakes if your mouth is sore.
- Turkey black bean chili. This recipe couldn’t be simpler – just put everything in your slow cooker and let it be.
Research into the role of diet and breast cancer outcomes has shed light on some possible eating patterns that may be helpful, although further research is needed.
A 2016 studyLooking at more than 6,300 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1976 and 2004, a higher protein intake was associated with slightly higher survival rates.
It may also be helpful to increase the amount of protein in your diet during cancer treatment, according to the American Cancer Society† The nutrient plays an important role in repairing body tissues and fighting infection.
Sources of proteins include:
- meat, chicken, goat, lamb, turkey and fish
- milk, yogurt and cheese
- soy products, including soy drinks, tofu, and tempeh
- beans, peas and lentils
- nuts, including almonds, pecans, peanuts, and cashews
- seeds including flax, pumpkin, hemp and chia
- peanut butter and other nut butters
A Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for people with breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet is rich in:
- healthy fats from sources such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, olive oil and fish
- a variety of fruits and vegetables
- learn proteins, such as chicken, turkey, fish
- beans, peas and lentils
- whole grains including barley, rice, wheat, buckwheat and oats
In 2020, a study looked at the outcomes of nearly 1,500 women in Italy who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1990s. It found that those who followed the Mediterranean diet closely had a 63 percent chance of surviving for 15 years after receiving the diagnosis. Those who didn’t follow that diet closely had a 54 percent chance of a 15-year survival.
Another 2020 study in 309 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 12 months, those who followed the Mediterranean diet were found to have a higher health-related quality of life. This included higher levels of physical function, fewer pain symptoms, and improvements in overall well-being.
Best Foods For Breast Cancer
It’s not clear whether eating a specific diet can improve outcomes for everyone with breast cancer. However, according to the American Cancer Society, a balanced, nutrient-dense diet is usually associated with better results than a diet high in refined sugars, red meat, and processed meats.
A balanced diet can include:
- cereals. This includes rice, pasta, quinoa, teff, bulgar, buckwheat, oats and wheat.
- Lean proteins. This includes chicken, fish, soy products, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and eggs.
- Dairy and non-dairy alternatives. This includes yogurt, cheese, and milk, as well as plant-based alternative milks made from almond, soy, or oats.
- Fruit. Choose a variety of fruits, including fresh, frozen, dried, or canned varieties.
- Vegetables. Eat a rainbow of colors from this group, whether fresh, frozen or canned.
For a diet to work properly, it shouldn’t just focus on the essential nutrients — it should include foods you enjoy. So be sure to include your favorite foods you eat simply because they taste good and also feel nourishing in your body.
It can be difficult to eat when you have breast cancer. Cancer-related fatigue can keep you from having enough energy to run errands or cook. Cancer treatment can also cause a sore mouth and nausea, which can make both meals challenging.
Certain recipes, such as smoothie bowls, frozen soups, and mild comfort foods can make eating a little easier when you’re living with breast cancer.
Keep in mind that there is no diet that is best for people with breast cancer. Consider focusing on a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as other foods that you simply eat to enjoy.
If you need more support, contact a registered dietitian or your cancer care team, or both, for more personalized recommendations.