Making changes to your diet

How can you choose and eat healthier foods?

We encourage you to keep your focus on your health and wellness. You can start small (once or twice a week), or you may choose to dive into including healthier foods in your daily meals. See Which foods to eat (and what to avoid) ›

Before you begin, consider your medical condition

In general, a plant-based diet is considered safe. However, adapt the diet to your needs, allergies, and other medical conditions. Discuss your diet with your healthcare team and determine if you need to make adjustments due to side effects, symptoms, or health conditions.

Example: If you experience diarrhea from radiation damage to your colon, you may temporarily need to eat refined grains instead of whole grains. This could mean eating white rice rather than the brown rice recommended as part of a whole-foods diet.

If you’re not able to eat well because of symptoms and side effects of your cancer or other medical condition, you may need to address those symptoms and side effects as part of Eating Well.

Some symptoms and side effects that can interfere with Eating Well:

  • Changes in appetite due to altered taste
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Oral symptoms
  • Pain

Diagnostic tests

Diagnostic tests may determine if you have nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. Ask your healthcare team whether tests may be right for you, then work with a qualified oncology nutritionist or dietician to interpret results and create an eating plan.

Get started: recommended aids to start eating well

You may want to ask your oncology care team for a referral to a nutritionist or dietican. Or perhaps you’d like to find an online resource for information and recipes. Maybe you want a small group, whether friends or an online community, to talk with and share support. We offer several suggestions here, but also look to see what’s available locally to help you make changes at your pace.

Whether with a program, an online course, a book, a video, or a dietician to guide you in making changes, match the format with your learning style and how you find motivation to act.

Online courses

Anticancer Lifestyle Program

The Diet Module of the Anticancer Lifestyle Program uses expert videos, animation, text and interactives to give you tools you can use to make informed (and delicious!) food choices. Programs are offered free of charge, but donations are accepted.

Online course module: Diet

The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen courses

The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen ›
Join CancerChoices and you’ll be granted free access!

Clean Soups Course ›
During the COVID pandemic, CancerChoices advisor Rebecca Katz is making her Clean Soups course available at no cost. “Is your objective to lose weight or boost your immune system? Simply add soup!

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts

Cooking classes are among the many offerings. Search the events calendar for “cooking.”

Program & Retreat Calendar

Health Navigators

Lifestyle classes are offered both online and on-site. Healthy Eating is one of the many classes available.

Lifestyle classes

Eat to Beat Disease Course

Inspired by the bestselling book, this online course is a guide to eat your way to better health.

Eat to Beat Disease

Recipes, blogs, and online resources

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch)

Recipes, a blog, and other resources for people with cancer or trying to prevent it.

Cook for Your Life

Cancer Dietitian

From Cancer Services, this site includes recipes, a blog, webinars, and more

Lifestyle Tips for Cancer Prevention & Survivorship

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

The Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group provides recipes, menus, diets, information on nutrition, and other resources for people with cancer.

Eat Right to Fight Cancer

Videos and podcasts

CancerChoices Senior Clinical Consultant Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, offers tips on Eating Well, such as adopting a plant-based diet and intermittent fasting.

Podcast: The New School at Commonweal

Join Rebecca Katz, and Jeanne Wallace, for a presentation and discussion about the healing power of food after a cancer diagnosis.

Rebecca Katz and Jeanne Wallace, PhD: The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen

Podcast: Sounds True

Elise Museles, author of Food Story: Rewrite the Way You Eat, Think, and Live, talks about the concept of “food stories”—your personal relationship with food and eating, defined not only by your own experiences but by the familial and cultural messages you grew up with.

Rewriting Your Food Story
CancerChoices Senior Clinical Consultant Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, demonstrates how to make a delicious and nutritious carob banana smoothie.
Recipe: carob banana smoothie Learn moreSee Less

Nutrition professionals

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Find a qualified registered dietitian nutritionist or food and nutrition practitioner who is right for you.

Find a Nutrition Expert

Cookbooks

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts

Soul Savory: Celebrating Our Roots with Nourishing Recipes
A book of outstanding home-cooking recipes from soul, southern and traditional African roots, some rendered in healthier versions

A Taste of Smith Center: Taking the Art of Good Eating Home, 3rd edition
A guide for preparing the delicious, nourishing meals served during the Smith Center’s week-long retreat, plus tips on food topics from menu planning and shopping lists to food storage.

Keep reading

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Reviewers

Rebecca Katz

Expert on the role of food in supporting health for the chronically ill and CancerChoices advisor
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Rebecca Katz, MS, is a nationally recognized expert on the role of food in supporting health for the chronically ill. With a master of science in health and nutrition education, Ms. Katz is founder of the Healing Kitchens Institute and has been a visiting chef and nutrition educator at the Commonweal Cancer Help Program for more than a decade.

Rebecca Katz Expert on the role of food in supporting health for the chronically ill and CancerChoices advisor

Whitney You, MD, MPH

Research Consultant
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Dr. You is a physician specializing in maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) with a specific interest in cancer in the context of pregnancy. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in health services research with a focus in health literacy and received a Master of Public Health.

Whitney You, MD, MPH Research Consultant

Miki Scheidel

Co-Founder and Creative Director
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Miki Scheidel is Co-founder and creative director of CancerChoices. She led the effort to transform Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, the prior version of CancerChoices, to its current form. Miki and her family were deeply affected by her father’s transformative experience with integrative approaches to metastatic kidney cancer. That experience inspires her work as president of the Scheidel Foundation and as volunteer staff at CancerChoices. She previously worked with the US Agency for International Development and Family Health International among other roles. She received her graduate degree in international development from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from George Mason University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College.

Miki Scheidel Co-Founder and Creative Director

Last update: July 6, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.