Coping with dietary issues
Below are some ways of coping with some common dietary issues.
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- Eat small meals frequently, e.g. every 2–3 hours. Have a regular eating pattern rather than waiting until you’re hungry.
- Ensure that meals and snacks are nourishing and include protein, e.g. meat, chicken, fish, dairy products, legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas), eggs, tofu, nuts and nut butters.
- Choose nourishing drinks such as milk.
- Add milk powder to cereals, sauces, mashed vegetables, soup, drinks, egg dishes and desserts.
- Add cheese to sauces, soup, baked beans, vegetables, casseroles, salads and egg dishes.
- Add sugar, honey or golden syrup to cereals, porridge or drinks.
- Talk to a dietitian before cutting out particular foods.
- It’s okay to focus on eating foods you enjoy. Relax any low-cholesterol and other dietary restrictions. Gaining or maintaining weight is more important than avoiding extra fat and sugar.
- Have ready-to-eat food available for when you feel like eating or are too tired to cook (e.g. tinned fruit, yoghurt, frozen meals).
- If food tastes bland, add extra flavouring, e.g. herbs, lemon, lime, ginger, garlic, honey, chilli, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or pickles.
- Some drinks may taste different or be off-putting because of their smell or texture. Choose milkshakes, fresh juice, hot chocolate and other non-alcoholic drinks.
- Choose cold food or food at room temperature without a strong smell. If food smells bother you, ask family or friends to cook.
- If you have a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth, eat moist fruits such as berries or suck boiled lollies.
- Try plain breakfast cereals with less added sugar, such as porridge or bran flakes, instead of cereals with added dried fruit, honey or other sweeteners.
- If you don’t feel like eating meat, try other protein sources, such as cheese, eggs, nuts, dairy foods or legumes (e.g, lentils or chickpeas).
- Talk to your doctor if your stools are pale in colour, oily, smell particularly bad, float and are difficult to flush, or you notice an oily film floating in the toilet. This may be a sign that you do not have enough pancreatic enzymes. You may need to start enzyme replacement therapy or adjust your dose.
- Talk to your doctor about whether to take anti-diarrhoea medicine.
- Drink plenty of liquids (e.g. water, fruit juice or weak cordial) to replace lost fluids.
- Avoid alcohol and limit caffeine and spicy foods as these can make diarrhoea worse.
- Try soy milk or lactose-reduced milk if you develop a temporary intolerance to the sugar in milk (lactose). This can sometimes occur when you have diarrhoea. Hard cheese and yoghurt in small amounts are usually okay.
- If diarrhoea occurs 15–30 minutes after eating, you may be experiencing dumping syndrome. This happens when partially digested food moves into the small bowel too quickly. Speak to your treatment team about this.
- Talk to your doctor about taking nausea medicine half an hour before meals.
- Snack on bland foods such as dry crackers or toast.
- Try to eat a little bit at regular intervals – not eating or skipping meals can make nausea worse.
- Eat and drink slowly. Chew food well.
- Avoid strong odours and cooking smells.
- Suck peppermint or lemon- flavoured boiled lollies.
- Drink ginger beer, ginger ale or ginger tea, or suck on candied ginger.
- Learn tips for dealing with vomiting.
Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department, Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Marion Bamblett, Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer and Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lynda Dunstone, Consumer; Kate Graham, Accredited Practising Dietitian – Upper GI Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Gina Hesselberg, Radiation Oncologist, St George Hospital Cancer Centre, NSW; Dr Marni Nenke, Endocrinologist and Mary Overton Early Career Research Fellow, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian – Upper GI, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Gail Smith, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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