Childhood cancer articles / 17 11 月, 2020

Importance of a balanced diet during cancer treatment

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Eating a nutritious diet during cancer treatment is essential on many different levels. Certain types of cancer treatments can be highly taxing on children and young adults, so by fuelling the body with nutrient-dense whole foods you can create an environment that promotes repair, recovery and overall wellbeing. This helps ensure a better response to treatment and healthy growth into adulthood.

Children and young adults should eat multiple small meals throughout the day, whenever they feel hungry.

How cancer treatment can impact nutrition

Cancer treatment is a process of destroying cancer cells; however, depending on the type of treatment that is delivered, this may also damage healthy cells and cause side effects. These side effects may affect the process of eating and ability to eat enough to maintain a healthy weight. We have outlined some common side effects below and recommendations to help maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

Nausea and vomiting

  • Eat small, frequent snacks (not eating can worsen nausea)
  • Try eating dry salty foods, such as toast and crackers, and bland foods
  • Keep foods out of sight when not eating and avoid smells of cooking food
  • Ensure to continue fluid intake. Try flat lemonade or electrolyte drinks; if nausea worsens, we suggest drinking these cold and through a straw

Mouth sores

  • Eat soft, bland foods to decrease chewing
  • Consume foods at a cold or lukewarm temperature to help reduce pain while eating
  • Avoid acidic or spicy foods
  • Ask your care team for ways to look after your mouth during treatment and manage mouth sores

Taste changes

  • Try eating salty snacks such as chips or crackers
  • Experiment with different foods and flavours
  • Keep a wide variety of foods available
  • If food tastes metallic, try using a plastic fork or spoon


  • Eat small meals regularly throughout the day
  • Try eating white bread, rice, pasta, bananas and apple sauce
  • Ensure to continue fluid intake, in addition to broth, soup or electrolyte drinks to help maintain salt and potassium levels
  • Avoid foods that can cause gas such as cabbage and broccoli, high fibre foods, raw fruits and vegetables and greasy, spicy or fried foods


  • Drink plenty of fluids including water, milk, tea, fruit juice or soup
  • Eat high fibre foods such as fruit and vegetables and whole grains
  • Do some light exercise if able

Loss of appetite

  • Consume foods that are high in energy and protein, such as meat, dairy, lentils, nuts and seeds, as part of a balanced diet
  • Eat small meals regularly throughout the day
  • Experiment with different foods and flavours
  • Keep a wide variety of foods available
  • Try eating favourite foods to stimulate appetite

For further support, ask your doctor and care team who can suggest additional ways to ensure a healthy, balanced diet and connect you and your family with a dietitian.

A dietitian can help ensure that what is being eaten meets the recommended nutritional intake during cancer treatment and manage dietary problems as a result of treatment side effects.

When children and young adults are unable to maintain nutrition

During cancer treatment, some children and young adults are unable to maintain good nutrition despite a healthy and balanced diet. In these cases, your care team may suggest oral supplements or nasogastric tubes to provide additional nutrition. It’s important to speak to your care team if you have any concerns and before commencing any supplements.

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