Eating Well Means Getting Well | Tips for Diet & Nutrition While Dealing with Pancreatic Cancer

Image showing food on table. Diet and nutrition are important for those facing pancreatic cancer.

You hear all the time that food provides the building blocks for your body. This is never more true than when you receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Eating well is especially important for cancer patients; you have specific dietary needs that must be met in order to maintain yourself and your body while you go through treatment. In this article, we will discuss the importance of nutrition and diet for pancreatic cancer patients, plus some things to keep in mind while you go through treatment. 

Why is Diet Important For Pancreatic Cancer Patients? 

It is important to remember that nutrition is only one part of the puzzle for a cancer patient. Eating well can help improve your cancer outcomes, but it is not a deciding factor. Just like with every aspect of health, diet only plays a part. However, it is a critical part. 

The Clinical Journal of Medicine published an article stating that 40-80% of all cancer patients will experience malnutrition during their diagnosis. This is a condition that arises when the body does not have the nutrients it needs to sustain itself. The condition is brought on in several different ways, whether it is from not eating in general or eating foods that don’t provide the proper nutrients. Malnutrition, especially for cancer patients, is dangerous, as it can lead to slow recovery time, decrease muscle functioning, and impair treatment responses, along with several other side effects. 

One of the first things you can do to strengthen your diet as a cancer patient is to add a nutritionist to your cancer team. recommends hiring a registered dietitian to help manage the patient’s diet during treatment. Cancer patients need specific dietary advice that is outside the common knowledge that we hear about food in this country. suggests that some dietary changes fall in line with national guidelines, others may seem counterproductive, like eating high-protein meals with heavy fats when you are trying to maintain your weight. Every cancer patient will have their own needs when it comes to food, which is why a registered dietitian, if possible, is a great addition to your cancer team. 

What foods should pancreatic cancer patients focus on?

Not everyone will have access to a dietitian. In general, there are a few guiding principles that you can use to start maintaining your nutritional well-being. Protein, as the main building block of body tissue, is essential for those going through cancer treatment. recommends that lean proteins are great for cancer patients, especially after treatment when your body is in recovery mode. states that avoiding processed foods is also important. Instead, try to focus on whole foods. Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins, which help the body process the food you take in. 

Contrary to some dieting philosophies, carbohydrates, and fats are important pieces of anyone’s diet. recommends sticking to unsaturated, or simple fats, such as nuts, oils, and some types of seafood. These are easier for the body to break down, and also provide insulation and energy stores, two things that can be diminished by cancer treatments. 

Carbohydrates are also necessary, as these are the main sources of energy in the body. Normally, dietitians would recommend including fiber in your diet, but for a cancer patient, fiber is hard on the body. Consult with your doctor on what types of carbs you should be eating. However, to be on the safe side, stick with your fruits and vegetables! 

Special Dietary Tips for Chemo Side Effects

There are also specific foods that can help combat certain side effects. The most common side effects when it comes to treatment are nausea, vomiting, and mouth/throat issues. Here’s what recommends for each of these symptoms. 

If you are prone to vomiting, the best advice is to wait until it passes before trying to get anything down. Afterward, drinking clear liquids and eating small meals is the best thing you can do for yourself. 

If you are only feeling nauseous, choosing foods that appeal to you may help ease that feeling and get you to eat. However, you may also want to try eating bland, carb-based foods that are easy to digest like white bread or crackers. The important thing to keep in mind to avoid both of these symptoms is to keep eating. If you deprive yourself of food, the symptoms may worsen. 

If you are experiencing issues such as dry mouth, trouble swallowing, or sore throat, there are a few things you can try to alleviate those symptoms. Eating foods that are easy to chew and swallow is key in these cases. Staying away from very hot foods and drinks will also help, and moistening foods with things like gravy or dressing if you can handle those heavier foods. Using specific techniques, such as drinking through a straw, chewing your food more, and cutting foods into smaller pieces may also help with these symptoms. 

And, please be sure to make sure you get fluids. Throughout your cancer treatments, you likely will lose a lot of fluids, so staying hydrated is important. Water, and fluids in general, help move nutrients and vitamins through the body, getting them where they need to go. Hydration, therefore, is essential for staying healthy while going through treatments. 

Meal Assistance For Pancreatic Cancer Patients With Project Pueple and Nutré Meals

If you are a pancreatic cancer patient or caregiver struggling to meal prep or find places to get the foods you need, Project Purple may be able to help. We have launched a new partnership with Nutré Meals in the hope of providing healthy food options to patients in need. The program provides pre-made meals to patients and their families, meaning that you don’t have to worry about cooking, and you are getting healthy food into your diet. You also can customize your order based on your needs, and Nutre will deliver them right to your door. Visit our Nutré partnership page for more information. 

Battling cancer is a highly involved and exhausting process. However, getting the right foods into your diet will help make your journey a little less challenging. You’ve got this, patients!

@projectpurple4pc Eating well is especially important for cancer patients; you have specific dietary needs that must be met in order to maintain yourself and your body while you go through treatment. For more valuable information, visit and hit “News & Stories” #projectpurple #pancreaticcancer #blog #nutrition #cancertips #canceradvice #cancerawareness #cancerresearch #pancreaticcancerawareness #cancersurvival ♬ Pieces (Solo Piano Version) - Danilo Stankovic

Follow Project Purple on Social Media

Previous story
The Grimaldis Give Back In Celebration of Kasey Grimaldi’s Pancreatic Cancer Survival
Next story
Project Purple Podcast Episode 258 – Surviving Pancreatic Cancer with Pam Zane & Stacy Greer


Join us in our mission to support pancreatic cancer patients and families

With your help, we can make a difference in the fight
against this devastating disease. Learn more about
our programs and services, or make a donation.

Together, we can make a difference.