What Should I Eat If I Have Stomach Cancer?

Medically reviewed by Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD

Stomach cancer treatment, which may include surgery to remove some or all of the stomach, often affects patients’ appetites and the way they digest food. Many patients may experience a poor appetite, weight loss, stomach pain, and feeling full early, which can make it difficult to adhere to their regular diet. Below, Dana-Farber nutritionists offer advice for maintaining a healthy diet while being treated for stomach cancer.

Green tea smoothie
Smoothies, such as this green tea smoothie, may help when you have a poor appetite.

Eat a balanced diet.

A balanced diet is possible for everyone. After surgery or during treatment for stomach cancer, modifying certain hallmarks of a balanced diet may be important. For example, consider lower fiber, softer fruits; cooked vegetables; and less fibrous lean proteins, such as fish instead of shellfish, eggs in place of steak, or smooth nut butters instead of raw nuts.

Minimize processed foods.

Cut back on meats such as bacon, sausage, and deli meats, which can increase the risk of colorectal cancer. It’s also smart to avoid processed foods including candy, packaged snack foods, soda, and other sweetened beverages, which provide few nutritional benefits.

Eat smaller, more frequent meals.

Many people with stomach cancer experience loss of appetite or gastrointestinal discomfort, and eating smaller meals can help. Instead of having three larger meals, try eating six smaller meals a day and maintaining an adequate calorie intake by adding calorie-dense foods. Try peanut butter on crackers, add olive oil to soup, or put avocado in a smoothie.

Try liquid snacks.

Liquid snacks, such as smoothies, may help when you have a poor appetite or feel full quickly, and there are many ways to vary these recipes.

Limit irritants.

Limiting your intake of alcohol, caffeine, carbonation, and spicy foods may also help limit side effects of treatment.

“Nutrition can help manage certain side effects of treatment and support a healthy immune system, as well as promote an overall healthy lifestyle,” says Dana-Farber Nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN. Meeting with a registered dietitian, such as Kennedy, can help stomach cancer patients, particularly those who may require tube feedings, effectively manage their health.

Learn more about eating well during cancer treatment, and find healthy recipes from Dana-Farber nutritionists in our Health Library.