Fatigue can be an overwhelming side effect of chemotherapy and is probably one of the most common complaints I hear. Patients tell me that they are going about their normal routines and from out of nowhere, they just crash.
Eating well during cancer treatment can be a challenge, especially for those patients that suffer from fatigue. Yet, it’s important to make good food choices during treatment.
Here are some easy to prepare foods to help increase nutrition input while minimizing energy output:
- Cans or pouches of tuna, salmon and sardines are easy ways to get a healthy serving of protein and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Canned chicken can be added to soup, tossed with rice or mixed with mayonnaise for a high protein snack or meal.
- Edamame or soybeans are available shelled or in pods in the frozen food section. This green “super food” can be added to salads, dips, casseroles, soups and a half cup provides 12 grams of protein.
- Canned beans are another great source of protein. Rinsing the beans under water lowers the sodium content by 20 percent. And hummus, which is made from chickpeas and tahini,is a delicious dip for crackers, pita bread, carrots or can be used in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich.
- Nut butters like peanut, almond, soy or cashew and nuts are calorie-dense foods that contain healthy fats. Calories per 2-tablespoons of a nut butter can range from 150 to 200 calories.
- String cheese, spreadable cheeses, low-fat cottage cheese, Greek-style yogurt, and low-fat milk are all easy ways to increase calories, protein and calcium intake.
- Dried fruit, canned fruit in its own juice and frozen fruit with no added sugar are all easy ways to add fruit to your diet.
- Many of us were taught that frozen vegetables are not as good as fresh vegetables, but this is not entirely true. Fresh vegetables are preferable when they are in season, but the further vegetables have to travel the more nutrition they lose. Freezing vegetables at the peak of their freshness preserves their nutrition. If you prefer fresh vegetables, choose a day when your energy is high to wash, peel and chop all of your vegetables at once. I love roasting a big batch of parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots on Sunday. Then all week long I can add it to my salads, eggs, pasta and sandwiches or even make a soup with them.
- Here’s a trick if you boil or steam your vegetables: keep the leftover water. Yes, the slightly green water and use it to cook rice, add it to a soup or use it for basting. It’s a great way to retain the water-soluble vitamins lost in the cooking process and it cuts down on the number of dishes.
- Frozen soup and meals, when consumed in moderation, can help you conserve energy while providing a balanced meal. Read the labels carefully because frozen meals can be very high in sodium. There are a few brands in your grocer’s freezer aisle that are under 600 mg of sodium such as Lean Cuisine®, Healthy Choice®, Amy’s®, Kashi® and Smart Ones®.