Living with cancer blog

Tips for safe food choices during cancer treatment

By Lonnie Fynskov, R.N. February 18, 2016

"Eat well to maximize your body's fuel for everyday tasks." This is a key behavior for a healthy lifestyle.

In treatment you may be advised to avoid any unnecessary bacteria to prevent food-borne infections. Meanwhile, you read and hear often about needing to eat more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. But what happens when you are told to avoid fresh produce during treatment? Is it still possible to eat well while avoiding fresh fruits and vegetables?

In the past, you may have been told to follow a neutropenic diet if your white blood cell count was low during treatment. Over the past year, recommendations have changed and that's no longer necessary. However, it's still important to follow rules of good food safety during treatment.

Rather than remembering long lists of what's safe and what might be a problem, think about how these general guidelines to limit your risk of food-borne illnesses.

  • Make sure that meat and fish is fully cooked.
  • Choose cooked vegetables instead of fresh.
  • If eating vegetables at home, wash them well, even if they are pre-washed.
  • Eat hard cheeses instead of softer cheeses. Avoid those made from unpasteurized milk.
  • Choose fruits that are easy to clean well or are cooked, such as canned peaches, pears, applesauce, etc.
  • Use pasteurized eggs when preparing recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs.

These suggestions may help you to eat healthy and avoid food infections during treatment. I’d love to hear what has worked well for you. Please share your suggestions with each other on the blog.

Feb. 18, 2016