Are you feeling confused about what to eat during cancer?
Have you wondered if following a 7 day meal plan for cancer patients would make life easier for you?
Could a healthy meal plan give some structure to your meals and also cover what you need?
How important are protein, complex carbs, and antioxidants anyway in a cancer fighting diet plan?
In this article, we cut through the noise and answer your most common questions about meal planning and cancer.
Keep reading to find out how to make a 7 day meal plan for cancer patients that fits your needs.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Why Eat Healthy?
Healthy eating means eating a variety of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
While avoiding most sugary drinks, processed food, red meat, and saturated fat.
And while there isn’t a cancer diet per se, a good example is the healthy mostly plant-based Mediterranean diet.
It provides the nutrients your body needs such as proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and water.
And it can also help:
- Prevent cancer
- Maintain nutrient stores
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Maximize your energy, strength, and immune defenses
- Speed up healing and recovery
- Lower the risk of infection
- Reduce inflammation
Does Your Weight Matter for Cancer?
Yes, your weight does matter for cancer, and the closer you are to a healthy weight, the better it is.
And that’s because it gives your body the best chance to maximize your defenses and prevent cancer.
Most certainly, being overweight isn’t ideal for cancer and in some types of breast cancer, it increases the risk of getting more tumors.
However, in most cases, if you’re starting treatment and you’re overweight, it’s best to just maintain that weight.
And then, when your treatment is done, take steps to lower your weight.
That’s because treatments can be hard on the body and are often dialed in based on your weight.
On the flip side, if you’re underweight you may have a harder time tolerating cancer treatment.
And in these instances, you may need to eat more.
Always check with your treatment center for individualized advice regarding your weight.
But what is a healthy weight?
A healthy weight is a number within a range that is associated with better health and the easiest way to figure it out is to calculate your BMI or body mass index.
The BMI is calculated using your height and weight and produces a number within a range.
Ideally, your BMI should be within the 19-25-ish range, and keeping it there should be a lifelong goal.
Best Foods for Cancer
The best food for cancer is a version of the mostly plant-based Mediterranean-type diet.
And recently, there’s a lot of information and heaps of recipes available on the web making it easy to adopt.
Naturally, you could also choose to follow a pescetarian diet that would typically exclude chicken and turkey.
But what is a Mediterranean diet?
Well, it includes eating a combination of plants, whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oil, and fish that are high in:
- Healthy Proteins
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Other Healthy Fats
But since no single food is cancer fighting by itself, variation is key for health.
How Much Should You Eat?
Firstly, focus on eating a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and beans every day.
Secondly, add seafood and lean fish (such as cod) often, and eat fatty fish (such as salmon) twice a week.
Thirdly, add moderate amounts of low-fat dairy, eggs, and lean chicken or turkey daily to weekly (Table 1).
And as a result, you’re most likely to get all the cancer fighting foods and nutrients you need.
Table 1. How Often You Should Eat Each Food
|Daily||Fruit & Veggies |
Herbs & Spices
Nuts & Seeds (incl. milks & butters)
Beans & Peas
Avocado, Olives, Olive Oil
|Often||Lean Fish & Seafood|
|Twice Weekly||Fatty Fish|
|Moderate Daily to Weekly||Low-Fat Dairy (cheese, kefir & yogurt) |
Lean Chicken & Turkey
What Should You Avoid?
The foods you should avoid are the more inflammatory foods.
Above all, such foods are processed, fried, high in calories, sugar, and saturated fat, and low in nutrients.
Some examples are:
- High-sugar sodas, juices
- High-Fat & high-sugar desserts and candy
- Pizza, doughnuts, chicken nuggets, French fries
- Frozen meals, instant noodles, chips
- Fast food, doughnuts, chips, hot dogs, sausages, burgers
Besides being inflammatory, these foods are more prone to cause you to gain weight.
Being overweight can be problematic as it can lead to higher estrogen and insulin levels and a weaker immune system.
Subsequently, that can result in a higher risk of cancer.
Recipes for Cancer Patients on Chemo and Radiation
Although you don’t plan cancer, eating well and getting enough calories is important throughout the cancer journey.
This is extra important if you’re going to have surgery or cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation.
That is to say, many treatments are tough on the body and can cause you to have trouble eating and lose weight.
For starters, food can start to taste and smell funny, make you feel sick to your stomach, or cause problems breaking down food.
This can, in turn, cause you to eat less and become underweight which can affect your strength and weaken your immune defenses.
In addition, these tips and recipes for cancer patients on chemo and radiation can help you:
Make a habit to always check with your treatment center for individualized advice.
Moreover, if you are looking for free meals for cancer patients, it’s going to vary greatly.
And finding free meals is going to depend on local availability where you live.
Therefore, your best bet is to check with your local dietitian for options regarding meals for cancer patients and family in your area.
And lastly, to prepare home cooked meals for cancer patients, here’s some inspiration:
- American Institute for Cancer Research
- American Cancer Society
- Olive Tomato
- Prevention Mediterranean Table
What Is a Cancer Diet Meal Plan?
A cancer fighting meal plan is about making smart choices often a week at a time about what you’re going to eat.
And it’s following through on your plan by shopping for and preparing the ingredients and meals you’ve chosen.
Meal planning is best when it’s individualized to your budget, tastes, likes, lifestyle, allergies, dietary restrictions, and goals.
All and all, it can help you:
- Choose healthy meals
- Save money at the grocery store
- Meet your nutritional needs
- Reach your health goals.
But it’s also important to take into account where you are in your cancer journey.
If you’re going through treatment, it’s more important to maintain your weight than to be too choosy with your food.
Who’s It For?
Meal planning can be helpful for people that are pressed for time, on a budget, or need to feed a family.
It can also help survivors that have completed cancer care focus on prevention and getting to a healthy weight.
Furthermore, it can help you eat better and avoid resorting to less healthy drive-through and snack foods.
And it can help you control portions.
In short, the beauty is that meal plans don’t have to be followed to a tee.
Instead, they can be used as a rough guide to help you throughout the week.
How to Meal Plan Step-by-Step
1: Get Organized
- Start with our sample template of meals below
- Use a one-week calendar or an app with room for three meals and snacks
- Choose foods from our example food lists below
- Look for Mediterranean diet recipes in magazines, blogs, cookbooks, etc.
- Start with dinners
- Plan to use leftovers, it can be a quick lunch for cancer patients
- Alternate between 2-3 different breakfasts
- Add smoothies or protein powder such as Kate Farms or Naked Nutrition if you need more
- Include a variety of foods:
- Add per day:
- 1.5-2 cups of fruit
- 2-3 cups of vegetables
- 3 servings of whole grains
- A handful of nuts
- 3+ servings of beans
- Moderate olive oil
- Choose lean fish and seafood often, and fatty fish two times per week
- Add low-fat dairy, eggs, or lean chicken or turkey in between
- Add per day:
3: Create Your Grocery List
- See what you have at home and decide what you need to get from the market
- Plan to get a mix of fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable items
4: Start Preparing and Cooking!
- And voilá, you now have your own personalized 7 day meal plan for cancer patients
Example Cancer Fighting Meal Plan Food Lists
- Honeydew Melon
- Oranges (incl. blood oranges)
- Bell & Chili Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Leafy Greens & Microgreens
- Onions (incl. yellow, red, green, leeks, chives)
- Mushrooms (incl. maitake, portobello & shiitake)
- White & Purple Cabbage
- Squash (incl. butternut squash)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Rice (incl. brown, purple, black & wild)
- Whole Grain Pastas, Cereals & Breads
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt
- Sour Cream
- Beans (incl. soybeans)
NUTS & SEEDS (incl. nut butters & milks)
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Hemp Seeds
- Pine Nuts
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
FISH & SEAFOOD
- Arctic Char
HERBS & SPICES
- Bay Leaves
- Black Pepper
- Cayenne Pepper
- Chili Pepper
- Mustard Seed
- Star Anise
- Green Tea
- Water with lemon juice, cucumber, or mint
Sample Meal Plan for Cancer Patients
When you aim to complete a 7 day meal plan for cancer patients, it’s easiest to use a sample or template.
Then, by using food lists you can change items to those that you prefer.
So, as a starting point, we made a sample that you can use.
Then, it’s just a matter of substituting according to your taste, likes, lifestyle, and needs.
This meal plan would also be appropriate as a 7 day breast cancer meal plan.
Menu for Cancer Patient Diet with Recipes
- ½ cup Bob’s Red Mill whole grain muesli
- 1 tsp chia and flaxseeds
- ½ cup almond milk
- 1 peach
- 1 OWYN plant-based protein shake
PREPARATION | Mix muesli, chia, and flax seeds in a bowl and add milk. Enjoy immediately.
- ¼ sliced avocado with a pinch herbal salt and ½ clove fresh-squeezed garlic
- 2 scrambled eggs with a pinch herbal salt, dill, and parsley
- ½ cup four-bean salad
- 1 serving pumpkin seeds
AVOCADO Slice avocado and douse with herbal salt and fresh-pressed garlic. Enjoy immediately.
SCRAMBLED EGGS Whisk eggs, herbal salt, pepper, parsley, and dill and pour in a heated pan coated with 1 tsp expeller-pressed canola oil. Scramble on medium heat until desired consistency. Let cool.
FOUR-BEAN SALAD Mix 1 cup chickpeas, black and cannellini beans, ½ red onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, ½ tsp balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of parsley, dill, herbal salt, and pepper in a bowl. Stores in fridge for 3-5 days.
- Hummus with sliced fresh pepper, cucumber, and carrots
- 3 ounces baked salmon
- 1 baked sweet potato with yogurt sauce
- Steamed broccoli
- Side salad with romaine lettuce, red pepper, celery, blueberries, and pecans
SALMON Cover fresh salmon in thin layer of 1 tbsp canola oil, 2 cloves fresh-pressed garlic, and a pinch of herbal salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 400 °F for 30 minutes. Let cool.
SWEET POTATOES Prick sweet potato with a fork, wrap it in foil, and bake in the oven at 400 °F for 45-50 minutes. Let cool, cut in half, and add yogurt sauce on top.
YOGURT SAUCE Mix 2 cups low-fat plain Greek yogurt with 2 cloves garlic, ½ tsp tahini, juice of ½ lemon, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of coriander, sumac, chili, herbal salt, and pepper. Stores in fridge for 2-3 days.
- ¼ cup oat-based chocolate ice cream
- ¼ cup fresh raspberries
- Water flavored with cucumber and mint
Meal planning is about making smart individual choices about what you’re going to eat when creating a weekly meal plan for cancer patients.
In short, it’s a 4-step process involving choosing foods, planning meals, creating grocery lists, and preparing foods.
Subsequently, making a 7 day meal plan for cancer patients can help you eat healthier, save money, and reach your health goals.
Practically, choose a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and beans every day.
Then add fish and seafood, low-fat dairy, eggs, or lean chicken or turkey.
That way you’re most likely to get all the cancer fighting foods and nutrients you need.
Our 7 day meal plan for cancer patients article is for general information only. It’s not medical advice nor an individualized meal plan. Thus, visit your healthcare provider for advice specific to your situation.