Eating and drinking throughout chemotherapy treatment

Posted by Sara Liyanage on 10 February 2023

A hand holding a cup of lemon and ginger tea

Chemotherapy can impact your appetite and tastes. This article provides some practical tips for coping with these changes during your chemotherapy treatment, and some nutrition advice. We’ve written this article from our experience as breast cancer patients.

If you’d like to attend a nutrition workshop or cooking class specifically tailored to people touched by breast cancer, click here to see our schedule.

During chemotherapy it’s important to seek expert nutrition advice from an appropriately qualified nutritionist or dietician. Some nutritionists and dieticians are specifically qualified to advice cancer patients and your medical team or GP may be able to recommend someone to you.

Eating a healthy diet for basic good health during chemotherapy

Eating a healthy diet for good health is clearly something that we should all be doing anyway, but it is particularly important while going through breast cancer treatment so that you maintain good energy levels, help boost your immunity and for general well being. We won’t harp on about what is a healthy diet (we’ll leave that to the nutritionists and dieticians) but we can direct you to some helpful info online via these excellent website pages on nutrition, chemotherapy and cancer:

Breast Cancer Now

Penny Brohn UK


Eating and drinking do’s and don’ts during chemotherapy

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables carefully to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
  • Avoid takeaways to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
  • Avoid un-pasteurised dairy products to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
  • Drink a lot of water. It is advisable to drink around 2 litres in the 24 hours following your chemo session and plenty of water throughout the course of chemo. You could put a two litre jug of water in the fridge to track your fluid intake every day.
  • Alcohol? It’s best to check with your oncologist or nurses at the start of your chemotherapy regime because the advice may depend upon which drugs you are being given.
  • Check with your oncologist before taking any dietary supplements, even if you were taking them pre-BC.

DO NOT DRINK GRAPEFRUIT JUICE – we’ve been told that grapefruit juice can interfere with some chemotherapy drugs so it is best to avoid it – but check with your medical team.

Food that can help with nausea from chemotherapy

  • Eat little and often.
  • Try ginger things like ginger tea, ginger biscuits or stem ginger.
  • Don’t eat your favourite things during this period because you could go off them.
  • Peppermint tea or mint sweets can help with the nausea.
  • It is often a case of trying and seeing what works for you in keeping the nausea at bay – go with what your stomach tells you.
  • Try snacking on dry, plain food like plain crackers, water biscuits, dry toast.
  • Boiled sweets can help with the nausea.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Helpful info online about this can be found on the Macmillan website.

Eating to help with a change in tastes and a furry, sore or metallic mouth

  • Cut up a fresh pineapple and freeze the chunks in freezer bag – these are great to suck on when you have a horrible feeling in your mouth after chemo.
  • Make fresh orange juice ice lollies using plastic or silicone lolly molds (available at supermarkets and on Amazon) – Sara made her way through loads of these during chemo.
  • Use plastic or bamboo knives and forks if metal ones emphasis the metallic taste in your mouth.
  • Avoid spicy food such as curry and chillies which might exacerbate any soreness in the mouth.
  • Avoid hard textured foods like French bread.
  • If you don’t fancy, or can’t eat solids, then have soups, smoothies, stews and juices.
  • Ice cream or sorbet can be soothing for a sore mouth.
  • Drink plenty of fluids – if water tastes horrid the try adding fresh fruit, a little squash or herbal teas.
  • Helpful info online can be found on the Macmillan website.

Suggested snacking list for chemotherapy patients

(in case you are looking for nutrition or snack-inspiration)

  • Apple cut into small slices
  • Orange cut into small slices
  • Fresh melon cut into small pieces
  • Banana cut into small pieces
  • Strawberries (actually all types of berries)
  • Celery cut into bite size chunks and filled with either cream cheese or peanut butter
  • Savoury crackers (water biscuits, marmite biscuits, cream crackers) with cheddar cheese
  • Home made fresh orange juice ice lollies
  • Fresh pineapple (cut into chunks and frozen)
  • Biscuits: ginger biscuits and plain digestives
  • Small slices of nice bread with butter and cheddar cheese
  • Toasted sandwiches

Further information

The Breast Cancer Now booklet on diet can be downloaded or ordered here. 

Nourish by Jane Clarke – a beautiful website from Jane Clarke (and her team) on eating during illness. It provides helpful advice about your diet during cancer and chemotherapy, nutrition advice and also lots and lots of delicious looking recipes. We’ve tried the frozen blackberry and raspberry yogurt – you’ll find the recipe here. For some advice from Jane specifically about eating during chemo, see the Q&A that we did with Jane on this topic.

The Royal Marsden Breast Cancer Cookbook – this book is full of easy, delicious recipes and lots of helpful information about eating a healthy diet during breast cancer treatment. Breast Cancer Now have published three of their favourite recipes if you’d like to try them out.

Future Dreams hold a range of support groups, classes, workshops and events to help you and your carers during your breast cancer diagnosis. These are held both online and in person at the London-based Future Dreams House. To see what’s on offer and to book your place, see here.

To return to the homepage of our Information Hub, click here where you can access more helpful information, practical advice, personal stories and more.

Reviewed February 2023

The information and content provided on this page has been written from a patient’s perspective then reviewed by a breast care nurse and it is intended for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your medical team for advice on anything covered in this article and/or in relation to your personal situation. The links and/or recommendations in this article to third-party resources are for your information and we take no responsibility for the content contained on those third-party resources. Any product recommendations made in this article are not product endorsements and they are made without any affiliation to the brand of that product and we ask you to note that there may be other similar products available.


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