Cancer is hard. Cooking and trying to balance nutrition with what tastes good during cancer treatment is even harder. I know this from experience fighting breast cancer and undergoing a dose dense ACT chemotherapy. Nothing really tastes good during chemo, you have no energy to cook, and at times it is much easier to choose comfort food over what you probably should be eating.
Cooking During Chemo
I am lucky. During my dark days of chemo where I couldn’t get out of bed and my husband worked long hours, I had a dedicated group of moms who would make nutritious and great tasting meals for me and my kiddos. The rest of the time, I had to get off my tush and figure it out. And easy it was not at times, when even food ingredients themselves make you sick to your stomach.
Recipes you need during cancer treatment: ones that nourish you from the inside without giving you stomach or mouth upset. Those with strong smells can make you nauseous, and beloved spicy foods that once brought comfort can otherwise ruin an already small appetite simply by making your mouth drier than it already is.
The Meals to Heal: Great Tasting Recipes that Address Cancer Symptoms
The Meals to Heal Cookbook by Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta tackles all these problems and presents 150 recipes to prepare during a cancer fight. Each recipe is marked with what side effect it helps to manage: lack of appetite; nausea, vomiting, or heartburn; constipation; diarrhea; fatigue; mouth sores; dry mouth; chewing or swallowing difficulty; taste aversion (to sweet, or sour and bitter); lack of taste; and smells bother.
I took a chemotherapy class before treatment and quickly learned that there was a whole list of favorite foods I had to avoid during treatment, such as bulk bin ingredients and deli meats, miso (fermented soy paste) and tempeh (what?!), and raw foods including any fruit and veggie that I couldn’t scrub clean. Looking at the list of foods to avoid that your oncologist gives to you isn’t the end of the world. You just need the right recipes using the right ingredients that you can use. The Meals to Heal has recipes for everything from beginning your day with healthy breakfasts to entrees and midday snacks to good sweets for dessert.
The authors dedicated Part 1 of their book to making food work for your benefit, even titling it “Getting Started: Food Can Change Your Cancer Journey.” Safe food handling tips and nutrition info is at the back of the book along with a wonderful appendix that identifies in chart form which recipes help with a certain symptom or side effect. This part I found to be very helpful as I could easily choose a perfect recipe for what I was experiencing. For example: looking for a soup when you are constipated from pain meds, have a dry mouth and an aversion to anything sour and bitter, have heartburn, AND strong smells bother you? Then, the Orzo Kale Soup would be a perfect match. Enjoy. Love that.
If you are on a cancer treatment path that includes chemo, then this is the perfect book to have in the kitchen. No empty promises for an easy ride through treatment (because there isn’t one), just real world, wholesome recipes that provide nutrients making you stronger – and presented in a way that tackles your side effects and manages your symptoms. Highly recommended read.
Enjoy a recipe from this great cookbook: Paper Steamed Fish and Vegetables.
- 1 1/2 pounds mild white fish, such as cod, tilapia, or halibut
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper in half, then open it back up and place the fish on one half, close to the crease.
- Combine the remaining ingredients and place on top of and around the fish.
- Fold the other half of the parchment over the top of the fish and vegetables. Working around the edges, fold the parchment over tightly in 1/4-inch folds, then fold up the ends to make a closed packet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Place on a plate and carefully remove the fish from the paper and serve.
- The Meals to Heal Cookbook: 150 Easy, Nutritionally Balanced Recipes to Nourish You during Your Fight with Cancer.
- By Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta.
- DeCapo Press; 2016.
- ISBN13: 9780738218793.
- Paperback and ebook versions.
Disclosure: Excerpt from The Meals to Heal Cookbook: 150 Easy, Nutritionally Balanced Recipes to Nourish You During Your Fight with Cancer by Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta. Copyright © 2016. Available from Da Capo Press, an imprint of Perseus Books, a division of PBG Publishing, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own. Any affiliate links help support this site. Thanks.