Originally written by Christy Brissette, RD
Updated and reviewed by Megan Morrison, RD
Nausea is a common side effect of cancer and cancer treatment. It can make eating difficult. The good news is that if your treatment has nausea listed as a side effect, you will be given medication to help prevent it. There are also some small changes you can make to your diet that may lessen the nausea you experience.
Make small changes to your diet
Eat small amounts of food often
Try to eat something small every 2-3 hours throughout the day. Hunger and an empty stomach can make nausea worse.
Sip fluids throughout the day
Try to drink 6-8 cups of fluids each day to prevent dehydration.
Fluids include water, soup broth, 100% juices, tea, and ginger ale.
Try separating fluids from solid foods. It may be easier to have fluid 30 minutes before or after a meal.
Timing is everything
Make the most of the times when you are feeling well by choosing nutritious foods to eat during that time.
Prepare meals and snacks in advance. When you are feeling stronger, make big batches of soups, stews and casseroles and freeze in single serving portions. This can be easily reheated when you don’t feel like cooking.
Choose bland, starchy foods that are easy on the stomach such as dry toast or a bagel, crackers, pretzels, plain rice or noodles, or digestive cookies.
If you are able to keep the bland foods down, gradually add protein to your choices such as toast with peanut butter, a tuna or chicken sandwich, and cooked eggs.
Foods to avoid when nauseous
Avoid spicy, sweet, greasy and fried foods. They are harder on your stomach.
Use the 5 senses to help nausea-proof your environment
Sight: Attractive food is more appetizing
- Choose foods and dishes in bright colours.
- Set the table. Add flowers, candles, etc.
Smell: Odours can make nausea worse
- Choose cold or room temperature food such as fresh or canned fruit with yogurt, sandwiches, wraps, vegetables and dip, or cheese and crackers.
- Order takeout, if possible, eat in a separate area from your kitchen, or use a kitchen fan.
Taste: A bad taste in your mouth can make nausea worse
- Rinse your mouth before and after eating, and during the day with a baking soda and water rinse. To make a baking soda and water rinse, stir 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda into 1 cup of warm water.
- Suck on hard candies such as sugar-free mints or lemon drops.
Touch: Physical sensations are related to nausea
- Sit up for 1 hour after eating.
- Open a window or use a fan for a nice breeze. Stuffy rooms can make nausea worse.
- Practice relaxation techniques or deep breathing.
Sound: Audio can be relaxing or distracting
- Play soft music during meals.
- Distract yourself with an audio book, movie or TV.
For more information on managing nausea
You can visit the Patient & Family Library on the 2nd floor and ask for more information about how to manage nausea.
Learn more about the Patient & Family Library »
You can also pick up a copy of these resources at the Patient & Family Library: