A Santa Fe dietitian offers food advice

By Elayne Smith Lowe



Santa Fe New Mexican


The Journey

Meeting with a dietitian can give cancer patients tailored guidance on the best ways to maintain their nutrition, alleviate treatment symptoms that food can make worse and navigate the plethora of food advice across the internet and other media. “Nutrition plays a really big part in treatment of cancer, and also quality of life during treatment and survivorship,” said Amber Allemand, a new dietitian at Christus St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center. “It’s really individualized, and everybody’s very different.” For example, some cancers, such as those of the head and neck, can lead to digestive issues that could be made worse by a plant-heavy diet. Some patients may no longer likes the taste of their once-favorite foods. Or maybe treatment is causing significant weight-loss. Allemand works with cancer patients and their caregivers to find solutions to these and other dietary issues in a way that will fit into their home lives. The biggest advice she has for both patients and caregivers? Don’t be discouraged! “Food brings a lot of emotions with it,” Allemand said. “I always like to remind patients we haven’t tried it all yet. There’s always more to try.” The first step is a nutrition consult where a dietitian will ask questions about a patient’s eating habits, budget, daily routine, symptoms and other clinical information. Allemand said she also teaches people how to prepare recipes, such as nutritional smoothies, and educates them about oral supplements that may be easier to take when they aren’t feeling well. “A dietitian’s role is a really wonderful balance between teacher, educator and clinician,” Allemand said. “My goal is to help [patients] feel less restricted as they’re going through a tough time.” While the Christus St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center has had a dietitian on staff in the past, Allemand is the center’s first full-time dietitian. “We’re just thrilled to have her full time,” said Karen Gano, oncology social worker at the cancer center. “It provides an extra component to our holistic approach.” The part-time dietitian was only on site two days a week; Allemand is available five days a week during normal clinic hours. She also participates in weekly patient navigation rounds, which Gano said enhances their already collaborative, cross-disciplinary patient care team. “We all work closely together to improve patient care,” Gano said. “Now patients have greater access to discuss their nutrition while going through their treatment.” Food advice for cancer patients and their loved ones • Ask your doctor about meeting with a dietitian. • Eat your veggies and fruits, but enjoy a cookie if it’s time for one. • If you’re sharing meals, add more toppings and condiments to your plate to increase calories if you need to gain weight. • Reduce your consumption of red meats or processed meats. • Minimize your consumption of raw fish and shellfish. • Deliver food with an ice pack or put it directly in the fridge to keep it fresh. • If you’re on a budget or worry about shelf life, buy frozen or canned vegetables instead of fresh.