Foods That Taste Good to Chemotherapy Patients

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Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses chemical substances to target and kill cancer cells. It may be given orally, by injection, or through an IV. Different kinds of chemotherapy cause different side effects. Some people experience a lot of side effects, and some people experience very few. The most common side effects include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sores in the mouth, loss of appetite and changes in the way food tastes or smells. Sometimes people receiving chemotherapy can barely force themselves to eat, even though the body needs good nutrition to help fight the cancer. If you are struggling with a loss of appetite due to chemotherapy, you may find some of the following suggestions appealing.

Many people on chemotherapy prefer soft cold or frozen foods such as yogurt, milkshakes, Popsicles, ice cream and pudding. If you have a blender, you can whip up a tasty, nutritious shake in just a few minutes. Cold, smooth foods may tempt you even if you're feeling queasy and don't want to eat. They are also a good choice if you have developed sores in your mouth.

Some types of chemotherapy can leave a metallic taste in the mouth that alters the flavors of even your favorite foods. Chemotherapy may also dull your sense of smell, making food seem as if it has little or no taste. One solution to this problem is eating tart foods such as oranges, lemons, tart cherries and pink grapefruit. You can also drink juices made from these fruits. Not only will tart foods awaken your taste buds, they are also packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. A word of caution: Avoid tart foods if you have sores in your mouth. The high acidity will make the sores worse and make eating harder than ever.

Many people receiving chemotherapy struggle with nausea or diarrhea to the point where even looking at or smelling food can make them physically ill. If you have this problem, you may find relief in bland foods. Bland foods are typically soft, not spicy, and low in fiber. Examples include crackers, potatoes, noodles, rice, clear soups, Jell-O, peanut butter and lean, tender meats. Not only are these foods inherently easy on the stomach, most of them are also "comfort foods" or foods associated with pleasant memories from childhood. Nibbling on them may bring pleasure even if you feel like you never want to see food again.

Getting adequate nutrition during chemotherapy can be a real challenge, especially if you are experiencing severe side effects. In addition to trying the foods mentioned above, consider eating five or more small snacks a day instead of trying to force down three large meals. You may also want to consult with your doctor and a nutritionist to make sure you are consuming enough of the right foods to help you in your fight against cancer.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "Foods That Taste Good to Chemotherapy Patients," in, January 9, 2016, (accessed August 11, 2022).