Nutrition Guide

Your food plan is personalised on the basis of your age, sex, height, weight, health and physical activity level.

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate addresses flaws in both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid and USDA’s My Plate.

Currently, the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate summarize the best dietary information available and can be used as a starting point to make the best eating choices, including:

  1. vegetables and fruits (aim for colour and variety)
  2. whole grains (e.g. whole wheat, barley, quinoa, oats, brown rice)
  3. proteins (e.g. chicken, fish, beans, nuts)
  4. healthy plant oils in moderation (e.g. olive, sunflower, corn, canola)
  5. water, coffee, tea (limit sugary drinks)
  6. exercise (stay active)


Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Pyramid please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, www.thenutritionsource.org, and Harvard Health Publications, www.health.harvard.edu. ‘The nutrient needs of each individual may vary, consult with your cancer care team can help you identify your nutrition goals.’

Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Pyramid please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, www.thenutritionsource.org, and Harvard Health Publications, www.health.harvard.edu.

‘The HSPH Healthy Eating Pyramid and the HSPH Healthy Eating Plate can be used as a starting point of daily nutritional choices.’

Physical Activity Guide

What lifestyle changes can I make to achieve optimal physical and emotional health?

All survivors should be encouraged to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The reason for this is that research has clearly shown that a healthy lifestyle is not only associated with better physical health, but also with an improved quality of life and a longer overall life expectancy. Furthermore, several studies show a relationship between healthy lifestyle and prevention of a new cancer, as well as reduced risk of cancer recurrence and longer survival. Because cancer survivors are at increased risk for second cancers and other medical conditions that can affect both physical and mental health, you are encouraged to follow recommended lifestyle guidelines. These include engaging in regular moderate to vigorous physical activity, achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight or losing weight if you are overweight, minimising alcohol intake, avoiding smoking and other tobacco products as well as practicing sun safety. You should also pay special attention to the recommended immunisation (vaccination) regimens and the prevention of infections. Cancer survivors may be motivated to make lifestyle behaviour changes for a number of reasons, including:

  • Reducing the risk of recurrence of original disease or risk of a second primary cancer.
  • Reducing the risk of cancer-related late side-effects, such as physical and emotional problems that may develop long after completion of treatment.
  • Managing persistent symptoms and side-effects, such as cancer-related fatigue, that linger after the completion of treatment and that respond well to practices such as exercise.
  • Reducing the risk of other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Improving overall health and well-being (quality of life).
  • Reducing the risk of mortality.

Many cancer survivors have unanswered questions about what is safe and what is not safe to do regarding eating and exercising, both during and after the completion of treatment. For example, you may be asking yourself the following questions:

  • Should I change what I eat and, if so, how?
  • Should I try to lose or gain weight?
  • Should I take vitamins or other dietary supplements and, if so, which ones?
  • Is it safe for me to exercise?
  • If it is safe for me to exercise, what types of exercises should I do, how often should I exercise and how strenuous should my exercise regimen be?
  • What sources of information on diet and exercise should I seek out and trust?
  • In addition to diet, exercise and weight management, what other lifestyle changes should I make?
  • Should I change my priorities in life?

Healthy lifestyles

Practicing a healthy lifestyle is an important step in reducing your risk of cancer recurrence and second primary cancers, as well as improving your overall well-being, including your physical and emotional health. A healthy lifestyle includes following established recommendations like engaging in regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet, achieving and maintaining a normal body weight, and managing stress. In the sections below, we will review each of these factors in greater detail and provide advice and tips on how to achieve your goals in each area.

Physical activity

One of the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle is physical activity. Physical activity and exercise should be tailored to your abilities and preferences. According to doctor-approved recommended guidelines, you should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-to vigorous physical activity per week. This could include 150 minutes of moderate exercise or physical activity, such as walking, stretching, dancing, water aerobics and yoga, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, such as biking, hiking, jogging, running and swimming. It is also recommended to minimise the amount of time you engage in sedentary behaviours, such as sitting for a long period in front of a computer or television set. Instead, try to seek more active alternatives while you are at home or at work. For example, instead of taking the lift, use the stairs. You could also choose to walk or ride a bike instead of driving a car or taking public transportation. Finally, be sure to get up and walk around for 5 or 10 minute each hour, even if you are busy. Research suggests that just getting up and moving around from a seated a position several times a day reduces your risk of several physical conditions and improves your overall health.

Remember that exercising regularly not only improves your physical health, it can also help reduce anxiety, fatigue and stress and can improve your self-confidence. It could also help you either to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Exercising is also associated with significant reduction in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, studies have shown the possible correlation between exercising and prevention of recurrence of several different types of cancer. This risk reduction is independent of your exercise level in the past! Even if you never were a big “exerciser“, starting and continuing to be physically active as of now will give you the same benefits over time.

You may feel that your motivation to exercise is reduced or you have some limitations that prevent you from being physically active. Challenge the idea that exercise must mean walking, jogging or going to the gym. Any activity is good for you and could include things like gardening, playing with grandchildren or doing housework. Some strategies and methods in order to increase your motivation and overcome possible limitations include:

  • Motivational counselling.
  • Personal training.
  • Fitness expert recommendations.
  • Doing activities with others or as a group (peer support).
  • Talking with other survivors and letting them explain the changes they have noticed in their quality of life through physical activity.