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If you have lower-than-normal levels of neutrophils (a type of white cell), you may need to go on a neutropenic diet. A neutropenic diet can help protect you from bacteria and other harmful organisms found in some food and drinks.

If your neutrophil counts fall below a certain number, you'll stay on a neutropenic diet until your counts improve to decrease your exposure to bacteria. If you had a stem cell transplant, your diet may be stricter than that of a patient who had chemotherapy or radiation therapy and no transplant.

Neutropenic diet guidelines vary among cancer centers. Ask your doctor  for any special instructions.

Basic Guidelines for a Neutropenic Diet

  • Avoid all uncooked vegetables and most uncooked fruits. You may eat fruit that you can peel a thick skin off of, such as a banana or an orange. Cooked vegetables and canned fruits and juices are safe to eat.
  • Avoid raw or rare meat and fish and uncooked or undercooked eggs. Cook meat until it's well-done. Thoroughly cook eggs (no runny yolks).
  • Avoid salad bars and deli counters. Buy vacuum-packed lunch meats instead of freshly sliced meats.
  • Consume only pasteurized milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products.
  • Avoid soft mold-ripened and blue-veined cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola and Bleu.
  • Avoid well water or boil it for one minute before drinking. At home, it's okay to drink tap water or bottled water.
last updated on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

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