What is a healthy diet?

Choosing a wide variety of healthy foods is something very positive that you can do to help you feel stronger and maintain a healthy weight.

You can check how you are doing by following these guidelines, which will provide all the nutrients you need. If what you usually eat includes foods that are not listed, talk to your treatment team.

Every day you need: Ia rā, ia rā me whai koe i ēnei:

Calories (energy) / Ngā pūngoi (pūngao)

Calories provide fuel for your body to do daily activities and maintain body weight.

Calories (energy) are provided by: Protein / Pūmua

Protein maintains and renews your body tissues and helps your body defend itself against infection.

The American Institute of Cancer Research also has recommendations on healthy eating. To view these recommendation, visit the Institute’s website.

Sources of protein are: Ahu mai ai te pūmua i:

Milk and milk products: Te waiū me ngā hua waiū

Have at least two servings of milk or milk products a day.

One serving is:

  • a glass of milk
  • or two slices of cheese
  • or a pottle of yoghurt or dairy food.

You can also choose cottage cheese, soft cheeses, ice cream, or milk puddings. Milk and milk products are a valuable source of calcium for bone health.

See our fruit smoothie recipe.

Meats, poultry, fish, eggs (animal protein) - Mīti, heihei, ika, hēki (pūmua kararehe)

Have at least one serving a day. Choose meat, chicken, fish (a serving size is equal to the size of your palm or two cooked eggs, or two drumsticks).

Meat, chicken, and fish also provide iron and zinc. Use low fat cooking methods, such as stewing, baking, microwaving, grilling, slow cooking, or poaching.

See our quick and easy wraps recipe.

Nuts and pulses (plant protein) - Nati me ngā kai kākano nei te āhua (pūmua tipu)

Have at least one serving a day. Choose nuts and pulses (dried beans, peas, and lentils); for example baked beans, tofu, lentil burgers, bean salad, and lentil soup. A serving size is equal to ¾ cup of cooked legumes.

Carbohydrates / Warowaihā

Carbohydrates provide fibre, vitamins (for example vitamin C), and minerals, such as selenium. They are an important source of energy.

Breads and cereals - Parāoa me ngā pata kai

Try to have six servings of breads and cereals each day. These foods should form the basis of most meals and snacks.

Serving size examples are:

  • ½ cup of cooked cereal or muesli, or one cup of cornflakes
  • one cup of cooked rice, couscous, polenta, or pasta
  • one roll, muffin, or slice of bread.

Also try semolina, sago, pikelets, scones, crackers, roti, chapatti, naan, plain biscuits, and other products made from grains. Ideally, they should be wholemeal or wholegrain, if tolerated, for additional fibre.

Vegetables and fruits - Ngā huawhenua me ngā huarākau

Have at least five servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Vegetables and fruits provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrates and fibre. Include a variety of colours and choose fresh, frozen, stewed, or canned. Serving size examples are:

  • one medium potato, kumara, carrot, or equivalent piece of pumpkin, taro, or yams
  • ½ cup of cooked vegetables; for example broccoli, peas, silverbeet, spinach, corn, peppers, carrot, courgette, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, lettuce, puha, or watercress
  • one tomato or a cup of salad
  • one apple, pear, banana, or orange; two apricots, plums, kiwifruit, or mandarins, 1/2 cup of fresh, canned, or stewed fruits; three prunes, dates, or dried apricots.

See our roast vegetable medley and Waldorf salad with a difference recipes.


Eat less of these foods or use sparingly, unless you are having difficulty maintaining your weight. You can choose from:

  • butter, margarine
  • oils, sour cream
  • peanut butter
  • coconut cream.

Fats provide energy and vitamins A, D, E, and K. If you are trying to lose weight, eat less of these foods or choose lower fat versions; for example lite coconut milk.

Fluids (drinks)

Aim to drink eight glasses of water (1500ml) or other drinks each day (more if your cancer doctor recommends it). Limit alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated drinks.

Vitamins and minerals

These help your body use the food you eat. The best source of vitamins and minerals is food. If you follow the guidelines outlined here, it is unlikely that you will need vitamin and mineral pills unless you are found to be lacking in something.

Some people believe that if a little bit of a nutrient is good for you, then a lot must be better. There is no scientific evidence to support this idea. High doses of some nutrients can have harmful effects and some vitamins, herbal supplements, and minerals should not be taken during treatment. Discuss with your cancer doctor or dietitian any vitamin and mineral supplements you are taking or think you should be taking.

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