Cooking for Cancer Patients

Tarragon & Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo - Cook For Your Life- small appetites - Sopa de Estragón y Pollo al Limón con Orzo- cook for your life- anti-cancer recipes

A time when good nutrition is extremely important, there are a lot of important factors to keep in mind when bringing meals to a loved one with cancer. Maintaining an open dialogue about food with your loved one and their main caretaker will ensure you are giving them the help they need.

Be aware that chemotherapy and radiation can cause changes in taste and appetite and can take a toll on the immune system so talking to your loved one about these issues before bringing them a meal is essential.

Some helpful tips so you can bring them the right meal: 

  • Make sure you follow safety measures to avoid spoilage or contamination of food. The FDA has a thorough guide on safety measures for preparing foods for cancer patients.
  • Narrow down recipes by using side-effect specific recipes on this site, which will pare down recipes based on the symptoms and side-effects they may be experiencing, or the dietary restrictions they are encountering.
  • It’s usually the first reaction to bring sick friends or family members comfort food. That’s OK. Just make sure you are cooking them in a healthy way and include important nutrients. For instance, you can bring them meatloaf, just make it with chicken or turkey and include plenty of vegetables.  Find our chicken meatloaf recipe here, plus we have plenty of ways to cook classic comfort foods in nutritious ways.
  • If a friend is feeling nauseated from treatment, it can be good to bring them bland-tasting foods like our Leek & Rice SoupPotato Rosemary Risotto, or even Poached Chicken. And avoid bringing foods with a strong odor, as a memory of the smell could turn them off of those foods for good, even when they’re well into survivorship.
  • You don’t have to bring huge meals. Registered Dieticians and Oncologists often recommend that patients keep small, ready-made meals around the house. Look into bringing veggie-based side dishes and snacks that are easy to put together.
  • Consider making easy-to-freeze recipes that can reheat easily – a great alternative for a cancer patient instead of pre-made frozen meals.
  • If someone is dealing with mouth or throat pain, or mouth sores from treatment, bring them very soft non-acidic foods. Our Sidelining the Side Effects of Sore Mouth round-up is full of soft food recipes.
  • If someone has surgery near their intestinal area or is dealing with digestion problems in general, cook them foods that are easy to digest, also known as the ‘bland diet’. These foods include white rice, potatoes, and cooked vegetables. Follow this link for bland diet recipes
  • It’s okay for cancer patients to eat sweets in moderation.  But you can also add important nutrients into sweet treats. Like in our Almond Avocado PuddingChocolate Beet Cupcakes, or Zucchini Bread

Remember that if they choose not to or cannot eat something you bring, they still appreciate the effort!

Registered Dietitian Approved

There are many misconceptions about nutrition and cancer in widespread media. By using current scientific literature, plus recommendations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society, our Registered Dietitian, Kate Ueland, MS, RD, and our team of editors work to help our readers discern truth from myth.

The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Always consult your physician or registered dietitian for specific medical advice.


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