Whether your transplant was 3 months ago or 3 years ago, what you eat affects your health. Your body needs a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, fats and carbohydrates, to work properly. From healthy eating to safe food preparation, here are 4 things you should know about eating after transplant. Remember, these tips are a guide. The registered dietitian (nutrition expert) at your transplant center can give you advice specific to your situation.
Tip #1: Store and prepare foods safely. No matter when you had your transplant, be sure to:
- Bring your groceries home right after leaving the store and put them away immediately
- Throw away expired food and don’t keep leftovers for more than 2 days
- Don’t eat food that has been left out of the refrigerator for 2 hours or longer
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling food
- Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in the sink
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before cutting or eating them
- Cook meat, poultry and fish to a safe inside temperature; use a meat thermometer to take the temperature
You can find more food storage and preparation tips on page 8 of Living Now magazine, Issue 1.
Tip #2: Eat a well-balanced diet. It doesn’t matter how long ago you had your transplant, a well-balanced diet is a key part of staying healthy.
But, it can be difficult to eat a well-balanced diet if you have side effects or complications from transplant, like mouth sores, nausea or graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) of the mouth. If you’re having trouble eating or finding healthy foods that taste good to you, talk to the registered dietitian at your transplant center. A dietitian can give you tips to make healthy eating easier and find recipes that are appealing to you.
Try these tips to make healthy eating a habit:
- Each week, add one more fruit or vegetable to your plate until it’s at least half of your meal
- Buy ground beef that’s at least 90% lean
- Eat more whole grains by cooking with brown rice or whole wheat pasta
You can find detailed healthy eating guidelines and helpful tools at choosemyplate.gov.
Tip #3: Avoid high-risk foods. If your transplant was a short time ago or you’re on immunosuppressants for GVHD, your immune system is weak. That means some foods and drinks put you at a higher risk for infection. For example, soft cheeses like Feta or Brie, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and undercooked meats and seafood are high-risk and generally not safe to eat. Alcohol can also interact with your medicines, so talk to your doctor before having an alcoholic drink. You can find more foods and drinks that are generally safe and unsafe on pages 7-8 of Living Now magazine, Issue 1.
Tip #4: Talk to a registered dietitian before making any big changes to your diet. This includes things like following a gluten-free diet or starting a vegan or vegetarian diet. Without some planning and preparation, it may be hard to meet your nutritional needs. Some foods could also interact with your medicines, so it’s best to talk to a registered dietitian first.
Remember, the tips above are only meant as a guide. Always listen to your transplant team’s instructions as every person is different.