The Great Food Drive Begins

Menu for people with cancer

In this article we want to recommend a healthy menu for people who suffer from cancer or who live or care for someone who suffers from this disease. It is a common disease, since we all have in mind a friend or relative who has gone through it, but also a disease that more people suffer and overcome every day. And we have to focus on that, on taking care of ourselves as much as we can during the process. And for this, we want to recommend a weekly menu .

First of all, remember that the recommendations given by the oncologist must always be followed and that the menu we share is a proposal with general recommendations that must be adapted and personalized according to the type of cancer and treatment the patient receives, according to the nutritional status and according to the symptoms. It is very important to keep this in mind.

Goals of diet therapy in cancer cases

One of the main objectives to be pursued is apparently as simple and as important as that patients eat and for this it is necessary to ensure that the food is palatable and easily digested . And the foods they eat must have a correct caloric and protein intake. This will help maintain proper nutritional status, which is essential for a number of reasons.

If the person maintains an adequate weight, they will be able to maintain their strength, reduce the risk of infections, better overcome the side effects of the treatment , continue the treatment in the stipulated timeframes and have a better recovery.

All this will also depend on the type of cancer you have, where it is in the body, as well as the kind of treatment you are receiving, for example, if it is surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or both, and it will also depend on the duration and the doses administered.

General recommendations when preparing a menu for a cancer patient

To avoid the risk of infection, we must pay special attention to basic hygiene measures. It is important to cook food correctly, wash your hands before and after handling food, check the expiration date of food, keep food properly stored in the fridge, freezer, etc.

It is also recommended that someone else prepare the food, especially in case of loss of appetite, taste alteration and in case of nausea or vomiting. In addition, in these cases, it is best to serve the food at room temperature or even cold, because this way its flavor and aroma are reduced and they are usually better tolerated. When several symptoms are present at the same time, it is advisable to check the patient’s tolerance to different food temperatures, from cold temperature, to room temperature or warm and adapt the food to this tolerance.

Menu adaptations according to the symptoms of the cancer patient

During the process, symptoms such as: nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, inflammation of the mucosa of the mouth and throat and alteration of taste and smell may appear that can cause weight loss and malnutrition. These symptoms also lead us to enhance the appetite and a correct diet, the objectives that we discussed in the upper lines. Other symptoms may be the appearance of constipation or vice versa, there may be diarrhea and lactose intolerance ,

In case of loss of appetite, it is advisable to eat nutritious but not very abundant meals 5-6 times a day, avoiding strong odors, highly seasoned foods, carbonated drinks, coffee and of course alcohol. Maintaining oral hygiene is essential and rinsing with chamomile helps in cases of  dry mouth .

When there is a lack of appetite, it is also advisable to drink liquids outside of meals, although in case of dry mouth (xerostomia) and difficulty swallowing ( dysphagia ) it is advisable to take small sips during meals to facilitate the passage of food from the mouth to the stomach. Lemon or acidic liquids should be avoided in case of taste alteration (common in chemotherapy treatments) or in case of inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth (mucositis).

In certain cases, this type of acidic liquids can be recommended in case of dry mouth and dysphagia or swallowing problems . You can even rinse them during the day to promote saliva production . And it is also recommended in these cases to chew pieces of fruit to improve salivation.

The symptoms can be different depending on the person and the treatment they have received, so we will try to clarify each of the meals on this menu for people with cancer, which is initially designed for people with the digestive system working correctly. It is a very rich and varied menu, where we will seek to promote simple preparations such as steam, boiled and baked.

Menu for people with cancer: recipes and tips

Lentils Cream

In a pot, cook the carrot and onion previously cut with a little vegetable broth, then add the cooked lentils that can be canned and crush, adding a pinch of salt and the spices most accepted by the person. This dish is ideal in cases of poor appetite and constipation . And it should be avoided in case of diarrhea due to the amount of fiber it provides. 

We remember that cream soups are ideal in case of lack of appetite since they do not require the effort of chewing and can be enriched with oil, nut flour, milk powder, cheese, cornstarch, etc. You should use little water in its preparation and to serve you can add seeds, nuts or chopped hard-boiled egg. They are different ways to enrich the dishes, to increase their nutritional value .

Grilled prawns with parsley

Prawns can be made both grilled and steamed, without any spices or only with those that suit the person. This preparation can be complemented with a sauce made from broth, flour, dill, brewer’s yeast and a pinch of pepper. In case of appetite alteration, it can be substituted for chicken or turkey and plastic cutlery will be used in case of metallic taste.

Sometimes quite common in people who have received chemotherapy treatment . Taking acidic fruit such as orange or lemon can help the metallic taste to disappear , or at least reduce it, as long as the person does not have problems with the mucous membranes of the mouth due to inflammation (mucositis) or xerostomia (dry mouth).

Spanish omelette, zucchini and onion

On the one hand, steam the onion, zucchini and potatoes until tender. On the other hand, the eggs are beaten and then all the ingredients are mixed. Finally it is cooked in the pan, with a little oil.

It can be enriched with brewer’s yeast or cheese. And you can eat small portions throughout the day. It should be noted that in people with mucositis , apart from acidic foods , it is also advisable to avoid onion, tomato or garlic, and even pepper and cucumber, so in these cases it would be better to make the omelette without onion.

Melon and almond gazpacho

The melon, the almond (which will provide texture and nutritionally enrich the gazpacho), 1 peeled garlic clove (if strong flavors are not rejected ) and chopped, some mint or peppermint leaves, oil of olive and pepper. It is crushed and served cold. The result is an appetizing and very nutritious gazpacho rich in fiber, so in cases of diarrhea it should be avoided because of the fiber, but it helps hydrate and works very well in case of dry mouth or and is well tolerated when there are swallowing problems. .

This preparation would not be recommended in case of mucositis (irritation / inflammation of the mucous membranes) that requires the suppression of spicy, fried foods, crusts, with skin, acids, etc. 

Pumpkin cream, rice and cheese

Enough water is added to cover the vegetables and when it begins to boil, the cut pumpkin and rice are added. It is seasoned and when everything is cooked add the fresh cheese. It is removed from the fire and crushed. You can enrich the dish with olive oil, and also with chopped hard-boiled egg when serving and / or with nuts such as pipes.

Creams tend to have a very good tolerance when there are difficulties in chewing , however, for people with mucositis depending on the degree, it should be avoided because it can be somewhat acidic.

Cod with tomato sauce and bread

In a frying pan, add a little oil and the chopped onion to fry. If there are digestion problems, skip this step and fry the chopped red and green pepper directly with a little broth. Once the vegetables are cooked, add a little homemade tomato sauce, a little salt and spices to taste. Wait for the sauce to reduce a little and add the salted monkfish, leave over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes and serve. It is accompanied with a soft bread that can be dipped in the sauce.

If strong flavors are not tolerated, this dish should be modified using steamed cod without sauce and served with a little rice or potato.

Quinoa casserole with vegetables and pieces of turkey

In a casserole, cook the chopped onion, celery and aubergine with a little broth. It is seasoned and when the vegetables are soft, set aside and brown the pieces of turkey in the same pan. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley and the vegetables that had been reserved. Cook for about 10 minutes over low heat and finally add the cooked quinoa, which is rich in protein and mix everything. You can add a tablespoon of crude oil and brewer’s yeast for enrichment .
Quinoa is cooked the same as rice but it is richer in fiber, so its consumption will be interesting for people with constipation .

Fideuá Seafood

The noodles are placed in the paella with a drop of oil and toasted. Stir until golden brown and set aside. The cut pepper and squid are passed through the paella. Fish broth, a little turmeric and cooked peas are added. The peeled prawns and the noodles that were already browned are incorporated. Cook for 10-12 minutes over medium heat and uncovered. It can be au gratin before serving. The garlic mayonnaise that is usually used to accompany this dish should be avoided in case the digestions are altered and if strong flavors are not tolerated , the plate is changed noodles with chunky chicken and the vegetables tolerated by the patient.

Tomato gazpacho

Wash and chop the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber and a pinch of garlic if tolerated. Pour into the blender glass, along with 1-2 tablespoons of oil and blend. It is served cold. If the patient suffers from taste alteration (perhaps extremely acidic) or inflammation of the mucous membranes (mucositis) it should be avoided, but it may be interesting for patients with dry mouth problems (as long as there is no irritation) and even dysphagia (with swallowing problems ).

Eggplant stuffed with chicken and rice

Cut the eggplant into 2 pieces lengthwise and bake at 200º for 15 minutes. It is removed from the oven and the interior is emptied with a spoon and set aside. The pepper and the chopped onion are cooked with a little vegetable broth and later part of the pulp of the aubergine is added and it is just cooked. When done, add the minced chicken, black pepper and thyme and a little salt. Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes. The aubergine halves are arranged on a tray and filled with the chicken. Tomato can be grated on top and that’s it.

Vegetable and potato puree

Water with salt and spices is brought to a boil in a pot. When the water comes to a boil, add the cut green beans and carrots and cook for 15 minutes. Then the cut potatoes are added and after a further 10 minutes, all the vegetables are removed and mashed with a fork. It can also be enriched with whole milk, cheese or cream. If you are looking for a finer texture, it should be crushed . If the digestions are correct and there is no diarrhea (since it is a recipe rich in fiber), a tablespoon of peeled pipes can be added to enrich it.

Baked breaded hake

An egg should be beaten in a bowl, seasoned and then added with the hake. The hake is left on the beaten egg for a few minutes and then the hake is passed in flour, round and round and cooked in the oven for 15-20 min. It could also be fried but it will depend on the state of the person’s digestive system and the tolerance to fried foods that are more difficult to digest .

Pasta salad with egg and tuna

Cook the pasta that may be whole in case of constipation but white otherwise, drain and rinse. The olives and tomatoes are cut into small pieces. Add the pasta, the tuna and a little corn and pine nuts and season it to suit the person, without forgetting the olive oil as a high calorie food and brewer’s yeast as an extra contribution of vitamins and minerals, as well as fruits. dry.

Creamy rice with monkfish

Heat a few drops of oil in a saucepan and brown the monkfish cut into pieces there for 2-3 minutes and reserve. In the same casserole, brown the finely chopped onion. If there are digestion problems or strong flavors , we will not skip this step. Then the saffron is sprinkled, stirred and seasoned. Add a little fish stock and then the rice, which is sautéed for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the broth and cook for about 14 minutes over low heat. Add the monkfish that was reserved and leave for another 3 minutes

Mixed salad

It is about preparing the person’s favorite varied salad. It can be enriched with oil, seeds, nuts or a yogurt sauce, for example. This type of dish should be used in the case of people with a good appetite and an intact digestive system, as well as in cancers with a hormonal component that cause weight gain. In these cases, it will not be necessary to enrich with more oil or dried fruit powder. However, it is a preparation that should be avoided in case of diarrhea ,  rejection of raw food or in patients with irritation of the mouth ( mucositis ).

Broccoli cream with cornstarch and cheese

Wash the broccoli, separate the saplings and put the saplings in boiling water and once done, let it cool and crush. In a saucepan, sauté the finely chopped onion in olive oil and add the crushed broccoli. Add a glass of milk thickened with cornstarch, which, in addition to thickening, enriches the preparation and mixes everything. If necessary, rectify with more milk. Leave a few minutes on the fire to thicken and the cream will be ready. Chunks of fresh cheese can be placed when serving

Baked sweet potato salmon

In an oven-safe tray, place the sweet potatoes cut in half and sprinkle them with basil. It is baked for about 10-15 minutes at 190ºC. Then another tray with the salmon previously spiced with pepper and cumin is placed in the oven and the whole thing is cooked for another 10 minutes.

In this dish, I would highlight that salmon, being an oily fish, is rich in Omega 3 (heart-salty fat and which is also anti-inflammatory) and zinc (a mineral that is usually in abundance in foods of marine origin, and that acts in antioxidant processes) . Therefore, in addition to being an appetizing dish and nutritionally very interesting, it is recommended in people with dysgeusia ( distortion of taste ) caused in many cases by chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment . The dysgeusia usually disappear within weeks to months after treatment ends.

Avocado sandwich

If the person does not have the courage to cook, they can have a soft bread sandwich with avocado, tomato and fresh cheese. In several cases it is necessary to use liquid supplements that replace some of the meals and ensure the supply of all nutrients . Cancer patients who usually resort to these supplements are those with a compromised digestive system , affecting either the mouth , pharynx or any part of the digestive system. In estso cases it may become necessary the gavage . 

In case of chemotherapy, it is recommended to stop eating at least 2 hours before going to the hospital and to avoid foods rich in fat such as fried foods. And in case of vomiting, you should drink cold liquids such as juices or water to maintain hydration.

In the event of vomiting , if fluids are well tolerated, at 4 hours the intake should be progressively increased and after 24 hours without vomiting, a soft bland diet should be started. 

We remember that all these recommendations are general and for the feeding to fit 100% with the patient they must be personalized.

Basic recommendations for feeding a patient with cancer

In short, the objectives of nutritional treatment will be to improve the functional status and quality of life of the cancer patient , through a personalized diet that ensures:

  • Preserve your lean body mass
  • Improve your immune status
  • Improve tolerance of antitumor treatment (either radiotherapy or chemotherapy ), which can cause symptoms such as mucositis (irritation and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and / or digestive tract; xerostomia (dry mouth) or taste alterations, among others.

The guidance of a dietitian-nutritionist in these cases is essential to accompany the person throughout the process, ensuring that they remain as strong and well nourished until recovery .

Remember to follow the recommendations of oncologists , who are those who know the specific needs of the patient and above all, take care of you as much as possible during this process.

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