Nutrition and Coping with Cancer Symptoms

Side effects of treatment may affect your eating pattern, requiring you to explore new ways to get the calories, protein and nutrients that you need for optimal nutrition. Eating a well balanced diet at this time can help you maintain your strength, energy and your body's natural defenses.

In addition to reading this information, you can schedule an individual appointment with the dietitian at the Cancer Resource Center to address your specific concerns. For additional information on the nutrition program, call (415) 885-3693 or visit us on the first floor of 1600 Divisadero Street in San Francisco.

Please also see the information and suggestions in Diet for Cancer Treatment Side Effects.

Eat a Variety of Foods

Unless instructed otherwise, eat a low-fat diet with a focus on additive-free fruits, vegetables, grains and small quantities of good-quality protein. Examples of a good-quality protein include nonfat dairy foods, eggs, legumes, soy, lean chicken and fish. Do not eliminate one or more of these nutritional building blocks without consulting with a nutritionist to develop a personalized eating plan.

Limit Caffeine, Sugar, Sodium and Alcohol

In general you will want to limit your intake, but there may be exceptions. If you have lost a lot of weight, just getting enough calories to prevent weight loss may be a goal, and hence additional fat and some sugar can be good sources of calories.

Stay Hydrated

Drink as much as you can during the day. Dehydration can be a problem with certain drugs and when nausea or diarrhea occurs. Bring a water bottle with you when you leave the house. If you are losing weight or need to gain weight, choose higher-calorie liquids (in addition to water) such as fruit smoothies, nectars, juices, or your own fruit popsicles made in ice cube trays.

More Information:

Please see our patient education article, Diet for Cancer Treatment Side Effects.

For additional information or resources, please visit:

Cancer Resource Center
1600 Divisadero St., First Floor
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 885-3693


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.