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Nutrition Guidelines for Cancer Survivors

More people are living long lives after cancer treatment. It's important for cancer survivors to eat a balanced, healthy diet and be physically active. The American Institute of Cancer Research has developed the following guidelines:

  • Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. These plant foods have fiber and other nutrients that may lower your risk of cancer. Plants foods should make up most of your meal. Fill at least 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans at each meal.
  • Limit red meats and avoid cured meats. Limit red meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal), lunchmeat, bacon, sausage and hot dogs. Choose lean protein sources like chicken or turkey without skin, fish, beans or lentils.
  • Limit salty foods. Eating too much salt (sodium) can harm your health. The amount of salt you eat should be less than 2,400 milligrams (mg) per day. Most of the salt we eat comes from processed foods like breakfast cereals, bread, frozen meals, pizza, soups, sauces and chips.
  • Stay away from sugary foods and drinks. Limit high calorie foods and drinks that are mostly sugar and fat. Avoid regular soft drinks and flavored juice drinks. Choose healthy drinks like water, coffee or unsweetened tea. Limit your intake of natural fruit juice to ½ cup per day.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages to two drinks for men and one drink for women each day. Drinks with alcohol are high in calories and low in nutrients. Too much alcohol may increase your chance of having cirrhosis of the liver, obesity, heart disease and some cancers.
  • Be as lean as you can without becoming underweight. Staying at a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do to decrease your chance of having cancer or having the cancer reoccur.
  • Don't use high-dose vitamin or mineral supplements to protect against cancer. It is best to get vitamins and minerals through food and not supplements. Healthy, whole foods have fiber, vitamins and minerals. With some types of cancer, your body may not be able to absorb or use some nutrients and you may need to start taking a vitamin or mineral supplement. The U.S. government does not review the safety of dietary supplements; therefore only use supplements that are reviewed by one of the following groups: United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com (CL) or the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.

These suggestions are not meant to replace talking to your doctor and registered dietitian. For more information regarding nutrition and cancer survivorship, schedule an appointment with the Registered Dietitian at the UW Carbone Cancer Center by contacting Cancer Connect by calling (608) 265-1700.