Eating well with CLL

Eating well with CLL

By Yvonne M Jeanes  BSc RD PhD

Senior Lecturer in Clinical Nutrition.

Eating well includes practicing good food hygiene principles and eating and drinking to maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet provides adequate energy and nutrients to maintain normal body functions, it contains a variety of foods as no food contains all the essential nutrients the body needs. A balance of nutrients is required for health, we all need energy to carry out daily activities, however, too much fat can lead to obesity and heart disease. Adequate intakes of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre are important for health.

For some people, weight loss or eating problems may be present, for those who are not eating enough, especially if they are losing weight, they will need more energy and protein in their diet. If you are losing weight you may need to eat differently to try and maintain your weight. Your doctor or dietitian may recommend foods that you would normally think of as unhealthy, but they have good reasons for doing this. The  Macmillan  website has a very useful section which shows you how to get more energy and protein without necessarily having to eat more food.

Healthy eating

Healthy eating principles for general health include;

1.     Base your meals on starchy foods

Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes are a really important part of a healthy diet. Try to choose wholegrain varieties whenever you can.

2.     Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

Most people know we should be eating more fruit and vegetables, but most of us still aren’t eating the recommended at least 5 portions a day.

3.     Eat more fish - including a portion of oily fish a week

Most of us should be eating more fish. It’s an excellent source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals.

4.     Cut down on animal (saturated) fat and sugar

To stay healthy we need some fat in our diets. What is important is the kind of fat we are eating. Try to cut down on food that is high in saturated fat and instead have foods that are rich in unsaturated fat, such as vegetable oils (including sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil), oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds.

5.     Try to eat less salt – no more than 6g a day

Three-quarters of the salt we eat comes from processed food, such as some breakfast cereals, soups, sauces, bread, biscuits and ready meals.

6.     Get active and try to be a healthy weight

It’s not a good idea to be either underweight or overweight. Being overweight can lead to health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. Being underweight could also affect your health and ability to recover from infections.

7.     Drink plenty of water

We should drink about 6 to 8 glasses (1.2 litres) of water, or other fluids, every day to stop us getting dehydrated.

8.     Don’t skip breakfast

Breakfast helps to give us the energy we need to face the day, as well as some of the vitamins and minerals we need for good health.

There has been a lot of publicity about alternative diets for treating cancer over the past few years. As these diets have not yet been properly studied, their real effect is uncertain. You may have heard about diets that advise people with cancer not to eat meat or dairy produce and suggest drinking large amounts of fruit or vegetable juice. Some recommend taking large doses of vitamins.

Some people do get pleasure and satisfaction from preparing these special diets, but others find them quite boring and even unpleasant to eat and time-consuming to prepare. A further problem is that some of the alternative diets are very expensive, and some can make people lose a lot of weight  Macmillan

Currently there isn’t sufficient evidence to show that micronutrient supplements have any benefit in people with cancer. It should be borne in mind that some high dose supplements may be harmful, sufficient vitamins and minerals should come from the fruit, salad and vegetables you are eating.

If you have any queries about alternative diets, or are thinking of following one, you should get further advice from your doctor, specialist nurse or dietitian.

Food hygiene

For good food hygiene in the home the food standards agency recommends the following;


You can prevent the spread of harmful bacteria by observing good personal hygiene and keeping work surfaces and utensils clean. It’s important to wash your hands regularly, especially:

  • after visiting the toilet
  • after handling raw foods
  • before touching ready-to-eat food
  • And remember: 
  • don’t handle food when you are ill with stomach problems, such as diarrhoea or vomiting
  • don’t touch food if you have sores or cuts, unless they are covered with a waterproof dressing


Proper cooking kills food poisoning bacteria, it’s important to cook food thoroughly, especially meat. Make sure that food is cooked right through and piping hot in the middle.

When reheating food make sure it’s piping hot all the way through and don’t reheat it more than once.


It’s very important to keep certain foods at the right temperature to prevent bacteria growing or toxins forming.

Always look at the label on the packaging. If it says that the food needs to be refrigerated, make sure you keep it in the fridge.

If food that needs to be chilled is left standing at room temperature, food poisoning bacteria can grow and multiply to dangerous levels.

Cooked leftovers should be cooled quickly and then put in the fridge. Putting food in shallow containers and dividing it into smaller amounts will speed up the cooling process.



Cross-contamination is the transfer of bacteria from foods (usually raw) to other foods. The bacteria can be transferred directly when one food touches (or drips onto) another, or indirectly, for example from hands, equipment, work surfaces, or knives and other utensils. Cross-contamination is one of the major causes of food poisoning.

To prevent cross-contamination:

  • always wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw food
  • keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate
  • store raw meat in sealable containers at the bottom of the fridge, so it can’t drip onto other foods
  • use different chopping boards/work surfaces for raw food and ready-to-eat food
  • clean knives and other utensils thoroughly after use with raw foodn addition, you may wish to

Only eat out at or consume takeaways from reputable outlets.

Use all foods within their use by/ best before dates.

Thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables and salads to remove all traces of soil, including ready-prepared salads, before eating.

Make sure eggs are thoroughly cooked until the whites and yolks are solid, to prevent the risk of Salmonella food poisoning. Avoid foods containing raw and undercooked eggs like homemade mayonnaise, ice-cream, cheesecake or mousse.

Avoid eating all types of paté, including vegetable patés, and mould-ripened soft cheese, like Brie and Camembert, and similar blue-veined varieties, like Stilton

or Danish blue, because of the risk of Listeria infection. You can eat hard cheeses such as cheddar and parmesan, and other cheeses made from pasteurised milk such

as cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese and cheese spreads.

Eating well with CLL (summary)

  • Eat a well balanced diet with lots of fruit, vegetables and salad and base your meals around starchy foods

  • Get active and try to be a healthy weight

  • Try to eat less animal (saturated) fat, sugar and salt, instead have foods that are rich in unsaturated fat, such as vegetable oils (including sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil), oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds.

  • Drink plenty of water, about 1.2 litre a day

  • Practice good food hygiene in the home  

  • Ensure that chilled foods are kept refrigerated and used by the ‘use by’ date.

  • Keep your refrigerator below 4 deg C.