Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet

Research suggests that eating well benefits people during and after cancer treatment. It can help you to maintain muscle strength, maintain a healthy weight and have more energy, all of which can improve your quality of life.

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Eat more fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and fibre

Fruit and vegetables are essential for a healthy, balanced diet. They are a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Fruit and vegetables also contain natural protective substances, such as antioxidants, that can prevent damage to DNA and other cells, and destroy cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) and cancer cells. Fruit and vegetables are low in kilojoules – eating them can help you maintain a healthy body weight.

Dietary fibre can help to ensure a healthy digestive system and reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Eating a diet high in fibre, including fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals, can also lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and help you maintain a healthy body weight. Some people experience ongoing bowel problems after cancer treatment (e.g. surgery or radiation therapy to the pelvis). If you find that dietary fibre makes any bowel problems worse, you may need to eat low-fibre foods.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Aim to eat a variety of different-coloured fresh fruit and vegetables. They are best eaten whole (i.e. not in a juice or supplement form), and a combination of cooked and raw vegetables is recommended. Frozen and tinned vegetables are still nutritious and are a good alternative. Look for varieties without added sugars, salt or fats.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that most adults eat at least four serves of cereal or grain foods each day, with at least two-thirds of these being wholemeal or wholegrain varieties.

Limit your intake of red meat and avoid processed meats

It is important to eat a balanced diet that is high in plant foods, such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals, but there is no need to give up meat. Lean red meat is an important contributor to dietary iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein.

Eating too much red meat increases your risk of bowel cancer. To reduce your cancer risk, Cancer Council recommends people eat no more than one serve of lean red meat per day or two serves 3–4 days a week.

There is strong evidence that eating processed meats, such as ham, bacon and deli meats, is associated with an increased risk of bowel and stomach cancers.

There is no conclusive evidence that being a vegetarian has a positive impact on survival after cancer treatment. However, increasing your consumption of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods will probably improve the quality of your diet. If you are considering reducing the amount of meat in your diet, it is important to include a variety of other proteins. These include eggs, legumes, pulses, nuts, wholegrains, soya and dairy products.

How much is a serve?

Fruit & vegetables Cereal & grains Meat (uncooked)
  • 1 medium-sized piece of fruit
  • 2 smaller fruits, e.g. plum, apricot
  • 1 cup diced fruit
  • ½ cup cooked vegetables
  • 1 cup raw salad vegetables
  • 1 slice of wholegrain bread
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice or wholemeal pasta
  • ²∕³ cup wholegrain breakfast cereal
  • 100 g lamb loin chop
  • 100 g steak
  • ½ cup diced red meat
  • ½ cup mince

Tips to help you improve your diet

Here are some tips to help you improve your diet:

  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods every day.
  • Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain and high-fibre foods.
  • Try reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese, that are also low in added sugars or salt.
  • Limit your intake of red meat.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and trim as much fat as possible before cooking.
  • Cut out processed meats like ham, bacon and deli meats altogether or eat only rarely.
  • For breakfast, add fruit and yoghurt to wholegrain cereal or serve some vegetables with your eggs and toast.
  • Limit the portion size of your meals and snacks.
  • Adapt your recipes to include more vegetables, beans and legumes, e.g. add grated carrot and zucchini, celery, capsicum, beans or peas to pasta sauces.
  • Fill half your dinner plate with vegetables.
  • Swap sugary drinks for water.
  • Avoid snacks that are high in added fats, sugars and salt, such as chips, biscuits and chocolate. Replace them with nuts, fruit, yoghurt or cheese.
  • Limit takeaway foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt.
  • Don’t add salt to food during cooking or before eating. Add flavour with herbs and spices.
  • Grill, poach and bake rather than fry.
  • Steam or microwave vegetables to maintain their nutritional goodness.
  • Use a non-stick frying pan or a small amount of polyunsaturated oil (e.g. olive oil) when pan-frying.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Nutrition and Cancer.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2018
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Nutrition and Cancer
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Staying healthy after treatment
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