Healthy meals for chemo patients

These simple diet tips and easy-to-prepare meal ideas are perfect for when you’re feeling unwell or too tired to shop and cook.

If you're undergoing chemo, you may have lost your appetite or be too tired or unwell to shop and cook. Here are some meal and snack tips that can help ensure you're getting the energy, protein and nutrients you need.
Eating a nutrient-rich diet especially  while you are going through a course of chemotherapy can help you to feel better and keep up your strength, but meals don’t need to be complicated in order to be healthy.
Focus on buying and cooking nutrient- and energy-dense foods, like vegetables, lean meat, dairy products and whole grains. This will make sure you get maximum benefit in each mouthful from less effort at the shops and time in the kitchen. 
Stock up on non-perishable foods like tinned and frozen vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas etc.), rice and pasta, and cook large batches of food that you can freeze in individual portions. 

Work with what you’ve got in the fridge and pantry, and aim to use everything before it goes off if you can. Always think about ways to reduce food waste to prevent a trip to the supermarket.
stir fry in wok

Healthy meal ideas

Here are some simple and healthy ideas to keep up your nutrition and reduce time spent at the supermarket and in the kitchen:
  • Add tinned legumes such as baked beans, chickpeas and four-bean mix to virtually any vegetable concoction as a great source of protein, fibre and slow-release carbohydrates.
  • Eat as many different coloured vegetables as you can to make sure your body benefits from a wide variety of nutrients. Seasonal vegetables will keep for longer.
  • Add quinoa to salads or use in casseroles. This grain offers all of the protein building-blocks (amino acids) that our body can’t make,  and it’s easy to store and cook.
  • Cook a basic bolognaise base and add any leftover vegetables lurking in the fridge. You can add meat or, for a vegetarian option, legumes. Add as much or little flavour as you like, and freeze any leftover portions.
  • Add good-quality fats like olive oil  to meals, and enjoy unsalted, unroasted nuts or hummus as a snack. Avocado on wholegrain toast is also a simple, filling snack.
  • Freeze (almost) overripe fruit like bananas and enjoy them as a frozen dessert, or thaw and use in wholegrain muffins. If you’re left with a glut of tomatoes in summer, make a simple passata and freeze to use in your next bolognaise sauce or casserole.
  • If you’re really struggling with fatigue there are some companies that deliver recipes and exact proportions of all ingredients to your doorstep, which will save you a trip to the supermarket. Or reach out to family or friends for help. 
Buying seasonal fruit and vegetables, stocking up on non-perishables and making good use of the freezer can help you to maintain a healthy diet during chemotherapy, as well as reduce your cooking and shopping time.
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