We’ve talked about the proven benefits of the ketogenic diet during cancer treatment, and as part of an overall healthy lifestyle indefinitely. Ketogenic (Keto) diet keeps your body focused on your immune system functioning well - fighting disease and healing - so your system is not preoccupied spending its energy digesting processed foods. But when you’re feeling sick from cancer treatment like chemo, strong medication, or you’re recovering from surgery, nothing sounds that great to eat. Trying to eat at all is a big ask, let alone keeping it ketogenic-focused and nourishing.
I’ve seen people lose weight like clockwork the week after chemo, then struggling to put it back on, only to lose the exact same amount of weight at the next chemo infusion. When I was struggling to eat and keep weight on during chemo, all I wanted was a slice of bread! Hardly Keto. But I learned a few meal hacks that helped me keep my weight on, stayed relatively on the rails from the Keto perspective, and gave my body the nourishment it needed to heal in as few chews as possible.
Maintaining weight can be a struggle so just eat what sounds good, especially during chemo. Just please make sure it's ORGANIC. Now is not the time for an extreme diet change and getting hung up on following a diet plan precisely. Just use it as a guideline to help guide you. Remember: getting calories in is paramount. So, start there. What sounds tolerable?
Here’s some tips and ideas that blend listening to what your body wants, with a few healthy additions to give it what it needs:
- Eat smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day. This will help not only with keeping your body strong but also with chemo induced nausea. Don’t let yourself get hungry.
- Bland is better during chemo. Not saying to sacrifice flavor but sometimes something too spicy or heavy will trigger nausea and vomiting. Easy to digest foods that are gentle on your system are best during this time to prevent unwanted side effects.
- Comfort food. Organic oatmeal is nourishing and easy to eat. Add in fresh organic berries and nuts for extra flavor. Frozen wild blueberries are my go to because they’re high in vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, fiber and antioxidants.
- Craving bland pasta? Make sure it is organic and even better, has a protein-based ingredient. When I was in the throes of chemo, pasta was the only thing that sounded medium okay-ish. So give in, just get a brand of pasta that is organic. Start there. Some of my favorites were Jovial, Tolerant, Explore and Banza.
- Protein shake snacks. When you need protein and calories in a single gulp, add in some protein shakes whenever you can. Protein powders are notoriously laced with chemicals, sugars, and fillers, so choose a clean one that’s going to be best for your fighting and healing body. My favorite plant based protein powder that’s clean and delicious is Truvani and Kion is a great clean whey based option. Add a scoop of collagen and some chia or hemp seeds for an extra health boost. One of my protein shake recipes is: 1 scoop of vanilla protein, 1 scoop of collagen, wild blueberries, spinach, chia seeds, unsweetened almond milk and ice.
- Keto mash up. When I needed to put weight on, I would combine nutrient-dense Keto ingredients into one big bowl. This way, in as few bites as possible, I could get what I needed (before going back to sleep). One of my very favorites was potatoes and cottage cheese with avocado and sea salt. Cooking the potatoes and smashing them with a few dollops of full-fat cottage cheese and topping with half a sliced avocado and a sprinkle of sea salt helped me keep the weight on and was surprisingly so yummy!
- Sourdough is okay! A little-known secret is that organic sourdough bread is Keto friendly! This was a lifesaver for me. Add a slice to the mash recipe above or a slice at breakfast with your scramble.
- Add nuts and seeds to everything. Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein, fats and nutrients. Chew on a handful of nuts or add them to anything you’re eating. Some ideas include: raw walnuts, raw cashews, raw almonds, hemp seeds, chia seed pudding, and oatmeal with nuts.
- Sip bone broth like tea. The health benefits of bone broth go back centuries. It’s incredibly nutrient-rich and is gentle on the stomach. Get the vitamins you need with as little effort as possible by sipping bone broth. Make sure it's always grass fed and add fresh ginger, sea salt and some raw spinach for extra nutrients.
- Just remember one rule: no cane sugar. There’s mounting evidence that cane sugar not only causes cancer cells to multiple faster, but it disrupts your body’s immune system and makes blood sugar behave in unhealthy ways. When you’re fighting for your life, don’t consume foods with cane sugar. You’re doing so much to rid your body of disease – nourish it! When you are craving something sweet, monkfruit and local organic raw honey in very small quantities is as far as you should go. I recommend Lakanto golden monkfruit and use it sparingly because it's very sweet.
In the end, listening to your body and eating what sounds good is best practice because you want to make sure to keep your weight up and body strong. Just remember to eat organic and nutritious food if possible. Food is one of the greatest medicines of all and one aspect of healing we can control and play a role in.
Here are some more snack and meal ideas for managing nausea.