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Neutropenic Diet – Safe Foods During Neutropenia

Foods to Try and Foods to Avoid


Updated April 25, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Chemotherapy for breast cancer or for a stem-cell transplant will target your fastest-growing cells. Hair, skin, mucous membranes, cancer cells and all types of blood cells will be killed during each drug cycle. Your neutrophils, the white blood cells that fight infection, may be in short supply, so this will be a good time to guard against bacteria, germs and other sources of contamination. Use a neutropenic diet to protect your health while your immune system is low. Here's a list of foods to try, as well as foods to avoid when you have neutropenia.

Practice Food Safety

You probably already keep your kitchen clean, but now it's even more important to keep your cooking area, utensils, pans and all your foods safe and sanitary. Make friends with soap, bleach and water - as well as heat and cold. These will be your weapons against bacteria and microbes that may lurk in foods and on cooking- and serving-surfaces. Load up on bleach wipes and disposable towels for kitchen prep and clean-up. Serve meats, seafood and eggs well-done, and be sure fruits and veggies are well cleaned. Make food safety a routine at your house, and keep yourself and everybody else healthy.

Neutropenic Diet Foods List

Food Groups Safe and Healthy Foods Good Examples Foods to Avoid
Meats, Seafood
and Soy
Thoroughly cooked or canned:
Beef, chicken and other poultry, pork, ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, lamb, seafood, game meats

Hard cooked: eggs and egg white or egg substitutes

Commercially packaged or canned: lunch meats and fish - must be refrigerated after opening

Packaged and pasteurized: tofu (unfermented only, must be cubed and boiled before cooking)

Canned chicken, tuna, ham and stews

Well-done meats, poultry and seafood

Hard-boiled and hard scrambled eggs

Raw or undercooked meats and seafoods, sushi

Raw or soft-cooked eggs and egg substitutes

Meats, lunch meats, other cold cuts from the deli counter

Sausages or salami in natural wrapping

Smoked or pickled fish filets

Tempeh products

Vegetables and herbs Precooked frozen or canned: hard and soft vegetables

Thoroughly washed and peeled: fresh vegetables and fresh or dried herbs

Frozen vegetable mixes

Canned vegetables

Fresh vegetables, scrubbed and peeled

Fresh raw salad greens

Raw sprouts of beans and vegetables

Unpeeled vegetables

Highly textured vegetables - difficult to clean properly

Fruits and Nuts Frozen and canned: fruits and fruit juice concentrates

Thoroughly washed and peeled: fresh fruits

Tinned or bottled: roasted nuts

Frozen or canned pasteurized juices

Canned fruits and fruit mixes

Unwashed fresh fruits

Raw nuts and nuts roasted in their shells

Freshly squeezed juices - unpasteurized

Grains, Breads, and Cereals Ready-made breads, rolls, muffins, pancakes and waffles

Chips: potato, corn, tortilla

Snacks: pretzels, popcorn, rice cakes

Cooked pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous

Cooked oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat

Whole grain breads

Low-salt chips

Instant hot cereals

Raw grains and uncooked grain products
Dairy Products Pasteurized: milk, cream, eggnog, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt

Commercially produced: cheese (non-mold types)

Pasteurized: whipped topping - frozen, dry, and refrigerated

Canned or powdered: nutritional drinks and supplements

Extra milk or cream adds protein to soups and sauces

Nutritional drinks

Unpasteurized or raw: dairy products

Deli cheeses

Blue cheese, Stilton, Roquefort - any cheese made with mold

Drinks Bottled, canned or from the tap: water

Canned, bottled or powdered: tea, coffee, juices, smoothies, sports drinks

Made with boiling water: black tea, herbal teas, coffee

Water with a squeeze of lemon

Hot green tea

Well water (may contain bacteria)

Cold-brewed coffee or tea

Unpasteurized juices, dairy drinks, or smoothies

Desserts and Sweets Refrigerated cakes, pies, puddings, gelatin cups

Refrigerated pastries and cream-filled pastry

Baked cookies (no raw dough)

Popsicles and ices

Prepackaged pudding, gelatin, and fruit cups

Fresh baked goods

Homemade fruit juice popsicles

Unrefrigerated cream-filled baked goods - donuts, pastries, cakes, cookies
Sources: ACS. American Cancer Society Guidelines on Diet and Cancer Prevention. 1997/10/09.
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