Treatment of stomach cancer usually involved removal of part or all of the stomach, which can impact the foods you eat for a long time. In hospital, the medical team will give you guidance on progressing your intake. Generally you are advised to start on fluids, gradually moving onto small portions of soft, ‘sloppy’ meals.
Going home can be scary for patients, as you go from having safe foods given to you, to having to make them yourself. Good nutrition plays a huge role in recovery. Try some of these tips to help and remember, if you are struggling, always contact your medical team to let them know.
- Eat little and often. Your smaller stomach capacity means you won’t be able to eat large amounts, so it’s important that you become a ‘grazer’, eating something small every two to three hours.
- Chew food well, and take your time. If you get full quickly, store food safely for later.
- Don’t drink with your meals. Liquid will reduce the amount of room you have for food, so leave 30 minutes between food and drinks.
- Make it count! Since you are only eating small amounts, try to make sure they are nutritious. For example, instead of having a plain cookie, one with chocolate for extra calories. When drinking, try to pick milk, or milk based drinks such as lattes for extra calories and protein. A nutritious soup can also be a good option, but make sure it contains adequate amounts of protein and calories.
- Fortify your foods. Adding butter, cream, cheese and skimmed milk powder to foods can really help increase the calories and protein of foods without increasing the volume. For example, just one tablespoon of heavy cream contains 50 calories! Add this into some scrambled egg for a little boost of nutrition.
- Fruits and vegetables are important for micronutrients, however they are low in calories and are high in fiber which may fill you up too much, preventing you from eating higher calorie foods. For this reason, they are not as important in the immediate stages after the surgery. As you start to broaden out your diet, include small portions of vegetables, mashed well with butter and oils to increase the calorie content. For example, a small serving of vegetables may have around 15 calories, but adding a knob of butter to this bumps it up to 90 calories.
- Avoid eating large amounts of sugary foods, which can cause dumping syndrome (for more on dumping syndrome click here).
As your diet expands out, you may want to try new foods. This menu of foods contains small meals which may tempt your taste buds. These do not replace advice given by your dietitian, but may act as a base to modify to your specific needs as directed by your medical team. Add high calorie additions to make them more nutritious, and cook all foods well to make them soft and easy to manage. Enjoy!