Seven Delicious Ways to Support Your Lung Cancer Treatment

by Sheila M. Eldred Health Writer

Whether you’re hoping to reduce nausea from chemotherapy, control your sugar intake after surgery, or simply manage your lung cancer symptoms, a satiating diet can help. The idea that nutrition should be part of medicine dates back as far as the 5th century, when Hippocrates was credited for saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Here are seven tips to bolster your nutritional quotient and keep unwanted side effects at bay. (And yes, most of them taste great too.)

Scrambled eggs and fork.
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Bland, not boring

Most of us associate bland foods with saltines and broth, but bland doesn’t have to mean boring. Some favorite comfort foods also fit into the category: Think peanut butter sandwiches, scrambled eggs, pasta, even desserts such as a decadent custard. Slice a banana and smear with creamy peanut butter for a snack, or spread toast with mashed avocado. Virtually anything that’s soft, mild, and low in fiber counts as bland, according to the American Lung Association.

Woman getting food out of the refrigerator.
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On ice

Odors making you feel even more nauseous? Head to the fridge: Cold foods don’t have the strong smells that cling to hot foods. (And obviously, avoid strongly scented herbs, curries, fish, and anything fried.) If others are cooking in your house, slip them these tips for eliminating kitchen odors.

Healthy snack of cheese, walnuts and grapes.
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Think snacks

If your appetite has waned, grazing may be the answer. Snacking also helps combat nausea. Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, recommends eating a mini meal every three hours. Pack those mini-meals with protein-rich foods such as nuts, fish, lean meats, eggs, and low-fat dairy products; protein helps heal cells and tissues and boosts your immune system after illness.

Brightly colored fresh vegetables.
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Follow the rainbow rule

“Eating the rainbow” is healthy for everyone, but eating antioxidant-rich foods may especially help reduce symptoms in lung cancer patients, according to a study. The brighter, the better: most fruits and veggies contain antioxidants, but the most colorful often contain the most (and taste great, too): Stock up on berries, bell peppers, squash, and tomatoes.

Smoothie and fruit.
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Take a sip

Staying hydrated is especially important when you have lung cancer, but water isn’t the only way to quench your thirst. Top off fruit nectar with bubbly water for a refreshing pick-me-up. Rearrange your kitchen to keep your blender front and center: Shakes and smoothies made from whole fruits, vegetables, milks, and nuts can up your calorie intake while being easy on the stomach. Try these recipes from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Ginger tea with honey and lemon.
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Tea, please

Peppermint and ginger are soothing to upset stomachs, so keep a steady supply of teas handy.

Oatmeal with sliced apples.
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Do a gut take on fiber

Eating a diet high in fiber is not only helpful in preventing lung cancer; reducing or increasing your fiber intake during treatment can also help control symptoms and side effects. Fiber adds bulk to stool and helps speed food through your digestive system, so adjust how much you eat depending on whether you are prone to diarrhea or constipation. High fiber foods include whole grains and seeds, legumes, and fruits and vegetables.

Washing fresh tomatoes.
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Be a clean freak

To ensure that your body is zooming in on treating your cancer, ward off foodborne illnesses and infections by following all food safety precautions. These four steps from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center form the basis of a solid protocol. See the next slide for more details.

Washing hands with soap and water.
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How to be a clean freak

  1. Wash your hands and kitchen surfaces obsessively. 2. Keep raw foods separate from everything they touch (yes, this may mean using multiple cutting boards and knives). 3. Take your food’s temperature to make sure everything is cooked to code. 4. Get food from the store to the fridge as quickly as possible, and thaw foods in the fridge.
Sheila M. Eldred
Meet Our Writer
Sheila M. Eldred

Sheila Mulrooney Eldred is a graduate of Columbia’s School of Journalism and a former newspaper reporter. As a freelance health journalist, she writes about everything from life-threatening diseases to elite athletes. Her stories have appeared in The New York Times, Nature, FiveThirtyEight, Pacific Standard, STAT News, and other publications. In her spare time, she and her family love running, cross-country skiing, and mountain biking in Minneapolis.