If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumour, a balanced diet could help you keep your strength and energy up, lower your risk of infection and help you recover well from treatment.

What constitutes a healthy diet?

The Department of Health has created the 'eatwell' plate to show what kinds of food make up a balanced diet, and in what proportions they need to be eaten.

Apart from the contents of the eatwell plate it is very important to remember to drink enough fluids (at least 8-10 glasses).

What to eat when recovering from treatment

Below is a list of diet-related side-effects of cancer treatments and some common suggestions on how to manage these side-effects.

Too tired to eat

If you are too tired to cook or eat you could:

  • Try having six smaller meals per day rather than three larger ones.
  • Use snacks, ready made meals and puddings to reduce the burden of cooking.
  • Ask friends or family members to cook dishes in bulk and freeze portions so you can have them ready to defrost whenever you need to.
  • Ask your doctor or dietitian to recommend nutritious food supplements such as shakes

Feeling sick

Chemotherapy or radiotherapy can cause nausea as a side-effect. Your doctor can give you anti-emetic medication which can help you manage this. If you are having trouble eating because of nausea, you can try to:

  • Eat smaller meals more often, rather than large meals further apart
  • Eat dry foods, like crackers, toast, dry cereals or bread sticks, when you wake up and every few hours during the day
  • Avoid foods or rooms with strong odours
  • Avoid hot or spicy foods
  • Avoid foods that are overly sweet, greasy or fried
  • Remain seated upright for at least an hour after eating
  • Avoid drinking with meals
  • Eat bland, soft, easy-to-digest foods on treatment days such as egg custards and soup with crackers.
  • Avoid eating your favourite foods until you feel well enough to enjoy them


These are some common suggestions for how to ease or prevent constipation:

  • Eating foods which are high in fibre (e.g. wholegrain food, fresh fruit
    and vegetables)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Try to do some gentle exercise

Taste changes

Treatments such as chemotherapy can sometimes affect your senses of taste and smell. People have often described a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth. Below are some suggestions on how to make your eating experience more enjoyable:

  • Rinsing your mouth and brushing your teeth frequently
  • Using plastic cutlery helps to deal with the metallic sensation
  • Eating fresh food instead of tinned
  • Seasoning foods with flavours such as lemon, vinegar, and pickles. (Avoid if you have a sore mouth)
  • Adding herbs and spices, such as garlic, chilli, basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, coriander or mint to your dishes

Big appetite due to medicines

A side-effect of steroids is to increase appetite significantly, and maintaining a healthy weight might become more difficult.

  • Eating foods which are high in protein and fibre can keep you fuller for longer
  • Avoid foods which are high in saturated fats or trans-fatty acids as much as possible

The list of food related side-effects addressed above is not exhaustive. If these side-effects get worse or if you are experiencing other food related side-effects of treatment, discuss them with your doctor or a registered dietitian who can assist you further.

The ketogenic diet and brain tumours

The ketogenic diet (KD) is a special high fat, low carbohydrate diet which also requires careful measurement of proteins. It is called ketogenic because it restricts carbohydrate intake, forcing the body to produce an alternative form of energy molecule from fat, called ketones. This diet was first used almost a century ago as a way to manage epilepsy in children who didn't respond to existing medication.

Over the past few years there has been a surge in interest regarding the potential of the KD in treating brain tumours and related seizures. Supporters of the KD argue that cancer cells are dependent solely on sugars (simple carbohydrates) and so strictly reducing the intake of carbohydrates and sugar can starve the tumour, while the body fulfils its energy needs by producing and using ketone molecules.

Unfortunately, there is currently no scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of the KD in treating brain tumours. If you still want to try this diet, please consult with your doctor or registered dietitian because, without proper monitoring, KD can cause a rapid and potentially harmful loss of weight. It can also affect your standard treatment and interfere with observations of your condition by your medical team. Consultation with your doctor is particularly important for anyone with a pre-existing medical condition, such as diabetes.

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