Malnutrition occurs when one’s body lacks nutrients and it is a common condition among cancer patients. It is important that one continues eating well before, during, and after his or her cancer treatment. This way, one can improve the overall effectiveness of the cancer treatments, which can lead to more favorable outcomes.

You might already know which beverages, nutritious fats, whole grains, starchy vegetables, dairy products, fruits, proteins, etc. to include in your daily diet. In addition to the recommended food groups, you might also know how much water to drink (e.g. at least 80-100 oz of fluid per day) and how many times to eat per day (e.g. between three and six times).

What about food safety? Due to a cancer patient’s weakened immune system, he or she must adhere to safe food handling practices to protect themselves against foodborne illnesses. Below is a quick look at how one should prepare, handle, and store food while combatting cancer.

General Food Safety Precautions

It is imperative that you avoid undercooked or raw shellfish, fish, meat, and eggs. That’s the first step. Next, you should not eat raw sprouts of any kind, e.g. mung bean sprouts, radish, clover, and alfalfa. To reduce one’s risk of foodborne illness, he or she should avoid potlucks, buffets, and salad bars too. Before consuming anything, read the Use By section. Take note of the expiration dates on both packaged and fresh foods.

How to Clean Food

Before and after touching any food, one’s hands must be thoroughly washed with mild, anti-bacterial hand soap for at least 20 seconds. If you have used the restroom, handled garbage, or touched your pets, remember to wash your hands.

When you need to clean work surfaces, cutting boards, and utensils, remember to use clean paper towels, sponges, and towels. Re-wash these items each time you handle a different food. For example, you should clean your cutting board after slicing chicken breast, to prepare it for the vegetables you will chop next.

Fresh fruits and vegetables tend to contain excess dirt. You must rinse them thoroughly under water while brushing and scrubbing them. This applies to thick-skinned fruits such as oranges, melons, etc. You do not want to risk allowing bacteria to enter the fruit while cutting it.

How to Separate Food

Raw fish, poultry, and meat contain juices that can come in contact with other foods when prepared next to each other. Hence, it is a good idea to use separate cutting boards for meat preparation. Always use clean plates to serve cooked food. One should never reuse the same dish that were used to hold raw meat. Only do so after you have washed the plates with warm water and soap.

How to Store Food

Before storing fish and meat in the refrigerator, ensure that they are placed in clean plastic bags. Next, check that your refrigerator’s temperature setting is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It is dangerous to store food between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which are ideal conditions for bacteria to grow. It is also important to freeze or refrigerate food immediately after purchase. To avoid increasing the refrigerator temperature, one can use shallow dishes to cool food before refrigerating.

How to Cook Food

One should not rely on the color of the meat to gauge “doneness.” Ground meats, whole meats, and mixed dishes (e.g. casseroles) must reach a safe internal temperature. You can accurately check internal cooking temperatures by using a food thermometer. If you are cooking eggs, ensure that the egg white and yolk are firm. Avoid recipes that use uncooked eggs, e.g. hollandaise sauce, cake batter, cream desserts, etc.