What to Eat when Battling Breast Cancer

Breast cancer treatment can be grueling, and often leads to a lack of appetite. A registered dietitian explains what types of nutrients women should focus on when going through breast cancer treatment.

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CLEVELAND – Breast cancer treatment can be grueling. Some days are better than others; and the ‘others; are often times when nothing sounds appetizing.

Krista Maruschak, RD, is a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center.

She encourages women going through cancer treatments to focus on two things – calories and protein.

“Getting enough protein is important to maintain your lean muscle mass which is going to help you with the best outcomes you can have during treatment,” Maruschak said. “And getting enough calories is going to help you to maintain your weight which is also going to help give you the best outcomes.”

Maintaining weight and muscle is one of the biggest challenges when undergoing cancer treatment.

Good nutrition can help prevent complications and treatment delays and the best way to get the nutrients needed is to follow a well-balanced diet.

For women who feel well after treatment she recommends a Mediterranean-style diet which provides necessary calories, protein and micronutrients.

However, for women struggling with nausea from chemo and radiation, she encourages them to eat whatever appeals to them, even if it’s not the healthiest option.

She often recommends women try eating small, frequent meals throughout the day if they’re unable to stomach typical portion sizes.

“Eating 5-7 small meals per day, or trying to eat something every 2-3 hours, also adding calories and protein where you can in those small meals,” said Maruschak. “You want to really maximize the amount of calories and protein that you’re eating in that small meal.”

If someone is only eating a few bites of food at a time, Maruschak said those bites should be packed full of calories.

Good ways to maximize calories include adding high calorie, healthy sources of fat to small meals like nuts, nut butters, avocado and olive oil.

Maruschak said creamy sauces, gravies and full fat dairy products can also help increase calorie counts.

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