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Diet Meal Plans through Chemotherapy

Updated on May 13, 2013

On Chemo!

Holding it together  - by the dining room table!
Holding it together - by the dining room table! | Source

A Nutritionist; What the Oncologist Recommends

When I asked my oncologist what I could do 'personally' to help myself be as well as possible during chemotherapy treatments (besides take oncological advice) he suggested my partner and I contact a nutritionist since "a healthy diet is essential".

Nutrition is key to maintaining physical defenses against the bashing of chemotherapy, whilst optimizing strength for when the treatments are finished. But I learned there is more to an homogenous recovery than eating fresh health-giving foods (correct nutrition).

I found it healing to be pro-active in recovery through foods, diet, nutrition and eating - and I have written a little of my personal experience of how and why I found it helpful to

  • Personally select the foods at the market.
  • Cook my own diet meals

Included here are a few menus which are essential (in principal) at chemo bashing time and a little further away from a chemo bash:

  • A helpful diet plan on chemo

Below also are links to articles about the importance of nutritional foods - and tips for health 'on chemo'.

Healthy Eating Tips

Going out to do the shopping ourselves means we patients having chemo treatments get to choose the foods we're going to cook. It puts us in control of our recovery as well as making sure that the foods we buy are rightly produced (bio dynamic or organic), as fresh as possible and that they contain all their nutritional values - so that we can get the best nutrition out of them.

Foods that help us face up to cancer pathologies are

  • Fresh foods (including meats, fish and eggs).
  • Produce that is grown locally (better within a mile radius!)
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  • Foods that contain no additives, preservatives or additional chemicals (some of which are toxic).

It's pleasant to chat with the person who sells the produce. It keeps us involved with the well- person's world at a time when we generally feel 'out of it'. People are kind. A lady once saw me in a weak moment and she quickly made me sit while she asked someone to give me a piece of pizza (I was at the grocery shop at the time). We chatted about her husband and the shop and about the experience she'd had with chemotherapy!

Ways Family Members Can Help the Chemo Patient

These are the hardest times for our loved ones because they have to look on and see how painfully challenging it can be at times for us chemo patients to do our battle.

Frequently they can do little to help.

Each cancer /chemo patient deals with illness differently and will be at different phase of treatment - and so there are no one-rule-fits-all.

Here is a short but truly helpful way loved ones and friends may help the chemo patient.

  • Offering lifts and transportation.
  • Help with carrying their shopping.
  • Don't ask them to cook for you or the family (sort it out yourselves for a while!)
  • Don't expect them to eat your food.
  • Respect their needs - to make their own food.
  • Sit with them while they eat! (Without commenting on their food. It's all 'yes!")

The greatest treat of all is breakfast in bed. A slice of home made cake and a cup of tea (or caffe latte).


Why it's Helpful for a Patient on Chemo to Make a Diet Meal

The fact that we make our own a dish of food is important because through preparing every aspect of our meal we can control exactly how our food is prepared, (how hot the oil is, or how well cooked or not the vegetable is etc.) the ingredients we use (for example extra virgin olive oil and not another inferior type of olive oil).

Dr. Francesco Steiner, my nutritionist, explains,

"It isn't the same to use one cooked vegetable instead of another. Green beans or courgette help the digestion but eggplant and red peppers don't, for example. And one raw green vegetable such as lettuce or cucumber is harder to digest than fennel".

Cooking our own food creates a suitable association between ourselves, our illness, our chemo, and 'getting better'. If raw fennel is easier to digest than a green salad on difficult days for instance (of which there are very many), then I'm happy to make sure I have a nice fresh green fennel alongside my slice of protein.

It may be tiring to go out to the market, walk around, search for the right foods and bring them back home. I needed someone with me after the first few bashes of chemo, (and the experience at the grocery shop) otherwise I felt I'd faint with fatigue. (This is where family members are happy to help).

Once home and closer to making the meals it requires a lot of willpower to get up and go into the kitchen and start chopping the vegetables, heating the oil, boiling the pasta or rice or whatever. I often felt I really could not do it.

But I did do it, often reeling round the kitchen, drunk on chemicals, looking at myself in an out of body sort of way, whilst amazed to be on my feet.

I had to eat the meal. This wasn't easy. I was often nauseous. My mouth tasted like a sunken warship. Cold perspiration dripped off my blanched cold face. I wasn't hungry.

But I sat and I began to eat my meal. I ate on.

Putting my knife next to the fork at the end of the meal, I always felt a hundred percent better. It was incredible.

Twice a day I repeated this and twice a day I felt better - through almost six months of intense chemotherapy

Feeling better on chemotherapy is a super achievement; it is a 'vitality' inside a general state of pure near-death-ness. It is worth fighting for.

A Diet Menu for a Day Straight after Chemo

I live in Italy, so the menu for food contains ingredients which are made in Italy, often close to home. Your nutritionist will give you a menu that is appropriately regional wherever you are in the world.

The following is an example of the menu diet my nutritionist gave me here in Italy, (during the summer months) to help my liver and kidneys as much as possible.

Lunch: Bruschetta with extra virgin olive oil and a tomato pressed over this

1 or two slices of raw parma ham (prosciutto)

1 cooked fruit

Dinner: Boiled rice or a boiled potato

1-2 boiled courgette or grilled or (boiled) fennel

1 peach or 1 cooked fruit

It's important that in the daily diet that there is:

  • fat ( extra virgin olive oil),
  • "sugars" ( in this case - potato, bruschetta, fruits etc) and
  • small amounts of protein (prosciutto here in Italy)

Together these help the organism to recuperate energy to 'reconstruct' the cells which have been destroyed by chemotherapy.

The foods (tomato, courgette, potato, rice and fruit) help the liver to start working again to dis-intoxicate and (fennel, fruit rice and pasta) help the diuretic action of the kidneys.

It's necessary to use cooked fruit because it is easier to digest - at this time, so close to chemo.

A Diet Meal for Mid Chemo Treatements

The further away from a chemotherapy treatment we get it's important to stimulate the liver more, by accelerating the elimination of toxins by helping the diuretic action of the kidneys.

Here is an example of day's menu for that period.

Lunch. Bruschetta with tomato,

Slices of veal cooked in the pan in flour and lemon and olive oil (Scaloppina),

An artichoke or a courgette cooked with oil and garlic in the frying pan

1 peach or 2-3 prunes

Dinner. Rice with a tomato sauce or courgette sauce (with EVOO and garlic)

1 fennel or mixed salad

1 kiwi

It's better to eat raw fruit now because of its therapeutic values and strengths.

Fruit is very important for patients on chemo because its 'vegetative waters' contain vitamins, sugars and mineral salts, anti oxidants and everything the liver and kidneys need to work.

Nutritional Information

The nutritional information and facts have been supplied by nutritionist Dr Francesco Steiner in Rome, associated with Komen Italia. It is the first Italian affiliate of Dallas Texas, "Susan G. Komen for Cure".

There are no 'made up' or altered facts in this article and where the science of nutrition is written about, there are no embellishments.

Recovery from Chemo - Three Years Later

Me, healthy again after chemo, three years later
Me, healthy again after chemo, three years later | Source

© 2012 Penelope Hart


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    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I decided that when and if my cancer returns (and this is not impossible) I'll have all the therapies again - but it requires courage. I'm glad you are there for your mother in law. You can't blame the pesticides because you don't know it's them for sure, and if you feel rancor for your surroundings it isn't helpful for the spirit. all the best and my sympathies. Thanks for dropping by and for your valuable comments.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      My mother in law in Piemonte is battling ovarian cancer right now (I blame the pesticides neighboring farmers have been heavily using for years on their crops) and her chemo is really making her sad. She was done but then they found a growth in her lungs so now she has to start again. I will translate this article for her and share your tips with her, hopefully it will give her some hope, thank you and kind regards!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      It's great to be well again, thank you JudiBee.

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      Very useful information and I am so glad to see you looking so well.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      It's a shame so many people have veered away from eating foods grown fresh in the garden or locally and it's such a shame that foods have become so expensive - but when you are ill it's worth going to any lengths to get the 'right' foods for health's sake. We have nothing without our health! Thanks for your sensitive comment.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      This diet sounds like it would be healthy for any9one and certainly for someone on chemo. I think the standard diet most people eat is unhealthy due to preservatives, antibiotics given to lives stock and so forth. Awesome hub for some trying to get well from such a horrible disease.