A Cancer Patient’s Guide to Meal Planning

Couple prepares food together in kitchen

Between oncology appointments, chemotherapy and spending as much time as possible with family and friends, finding the time for proper nutrition can be difficult. Throw exercise in there, and it can feel impossible.

Often, people fail to carve out enough time to prepare healthy meals throughout the week. This can result in eating unhealthy options or, for people going through cancer treatments, not eating anything at all.

Unfortunate side effects of chemotherapy and radiation can include little to no appetite and difficulty swallowing. This can cause significant weight loss, which ultimately hurts a mesothelioma patient’s prognosis and the ability for their body to recover after treatment.

Many people with or without cancer are turning to meal planning in order to simplify the week while improving their overall nutrition.

What Is Meal Planning?

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to improve your health and wellness.

The basic philosophy behind meal planning is simply choosing a menu for the rest of the week. Picking a breakfast, lunch, dinner and several snacks for each day of the week can make every day simpler by eliminating the need for last-minute decisions. Meal planning can also make it possible for family members to gather for scheduled meals.

How to Get Started with Meal Planning

To begin meal planning, it is important to ask yourself a few key questions, and throughout the whole process, remember developing a nutrition or food plan takes time. Eventually, you will learn the best method for you and your family with practice. Also, remember to discuss dietary changes with your mesothelioma specialist before changing things up.

  • How many days do you want to plan? For some people, planning the whole week is perfect; for others, three days is a better solution when purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • When do you plan to eat at home? Meal planning works best if you plan to be at home for each meal, but even if you don’t, just plan for your schedule. Refer to your planner to figure out how many meals you need to prepare and how many recipes you need to choose.
  • What sounds tasty? Perhaps the most entertaining part of meal planning is picking the actual recipes. Gather your favorite meals and schedule them throughout the week. Quick Tip:Try to choose recipes using the same meat and produce to minimize waste and allow cooking in bulk.
  • What is your backup plan? Sometimes meals flop. It happens. By having a spare meal, you’ll be prepared if that happens. Also, remember to have some meal replacements or smoothie essentials on hand, especially if you have treatment this week, as it may be difficult to swallow or taste in general.

Meal Planning with Family

Spending time with family and friends is always important. This becomes especially true when you are diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other cancer. Time is precious.

For many families, sharing a meal is a treasured moment to make memories.

Meal planning makes family meals even easier. By making sure everyone is on the same page, you can ask family members to contribute different parts of the meal.

Whether your daughter makes the perfect mashed potatoes or your neighbor is the BBQ master, by dividing and conquering, the meal will be easier to prepare and the patient will have more energy for making memories.

Improving your nutrition should benefit many aspects of your life. From the effectiveness of cancer treatments to your family’s opportunity to spend time together, your quality of life and survival could greatly improve by simply focusing on your nutrition and overall wellness.


Cara joined The Mesothelioma Center as Social Media Specialist in July 2015 to continue her mission of making a difference in world. Every day, Cara speaks with survivors, caregivers and their loved ones in the online mesothelioma community to answer questions and offer emotional support. If you have a story idea for Cara or you'’d like to learn more about social media, please email her at ctompot@asbestos.com.

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