Cooking Christmas Dinner For Loved Ones With Cancer
For many of us Christmas revolves around food. I can remember spending hours with Mum planning our Christmas menu which started on Christmas Eve with a home roasted ham & chips and finished on Boxing Day with turkey & ham pie, not to mention all of the nibbly bits in between.
But if you or a loved one is going through cancer treatment this Christmas, planning the Christmas menu might not be quite as much fun. Cancer treatments can cause a variety of eating issues, including nausea, a loss of appetite, a sore mouth and taste changes. So if you're in charge of cooking Christmas dinner for a friend or family member with cancer, or if you're going through cancer yourself and you're worried about what you might be able to manage to eat, we've got some helpful tips and recipes.
According to registered dietician Maureen Callahan, the easiest way to cook for someone going through cancer is to cook something that helps to soothe the symptoms or side effects they're experiencing at the moment.
Below we look at some of the most common dietary issues together with some suggestions of how to help ease them.
An aversion to red meat:
Many cancer patients find they can no longer stomach red meat, so it would make sense to serve up other good protein substitutes such as poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses or tofu.
If your loved one is feeling nauseous, try dishing up simple comfort food with subtle flavours. Ginger, lemon and peppermint are all great ingredients associated with easing nausea. I used to love making ginger cake for Mum when she was feeling queasy.
If your loved one has little or no appetite, try serving up mini snacks frequently throughout the day as a large plate of food can be overwhelming and off putting. You could also look to boost protein and calorie intake by serving healthy, high-fat foods such as avocado or nut butter. Consider adding butter or oils to foods wherever possible. Use butter or margarine generously on potatoes, bread, toast and vegetables. Add a spoonful of olive oil to soups and on bread, rice, pasta and vegetables. Substitute Greek yoghurt for standard yoghurt as it has double the protein and add cream to deserts and hot drinks where appropriate.
If a dry mouth is the issue, try food and drinks that moisten the mouth and sweet or tart foods that stimulate saliva.
For those suffering from mouth sores or if swallowing problems are an issue avoid coarse-textured foods such as hard crusty breads, tough meats or crispy roast potatoes and stay away from spicy or salty foods. Instead go for soft, easy-to-swallow foods and drinks such as soups, flaked fish, mashed potatoes and pureed veggies.
Loss of taste:
Many cancer patients experience changes to their sense of taste, including experiencing a metallic taste or loosing their sense of taste. If this is the case, try using spices and strong flavours especially bitter or sour flavours to give food extra flavour.
Ryan Riley, founder of Life Kitchen, a not-for-profit cookery school for people with cancer which focuses on taste and flavour, believes the key to combatting a loss of taste is thinking about strong, layered flavours, focussing on smell & texture and using ingredients which are rich in 'umami' flavour which is often detected when sweet or bitter flavours are not.
Life Kitchen have put together a delectable but simple book of Christmas recipes that stimulate the palate and the senses and you can order it from the Life Kitchen website completely free of charge - you just pay for the postage.
Some of Life Kitchen's mouth watering Christmas recipes can also be found in this Daily Mail article, including the delicious:
Baked camembert with quick-pickled mushrooms
Cheat's mince pies with miso custard tops
Sourdough, mustard and mushroom stuffing
Lamb and date sausage rolls
Miso, maple and tarragon sprouts
Mint and cranberry sauce
Hot horseradish, parmesan and cranberry potato cake
If none of these take your fancy, Andy Morris, Head Chef from Onko, a digital cancer care app, suggests the following traditional Christmas vegetable recipes with a twist, to ensure that loved ones with cancer don't feel left out this Christmas.
Brussels sprouts, bacon and chestnuts
Potato and parsnip puree
Peas & mint
The recipes can be found here.
And finally, Macmillan have teamed up with Green King to create the following treatment-friendly Christmas recipes for you to try at home which can be found here:
Spiced parsnip and honey soup
Butternut squash and cranberry nut bake
Orange and nutmeg rice pudding
The recipes above have certainly made our mouths water, but if you're in need of a little more inspiration, it's also worth taking a look at the Cook For Your Life website which is an American organisation that teaches healthy cooking to people touched by cancer.
Whilst we couldn't find any Christmas specific dishes, the site is packed full of recipes that have been easily categorised into meal types, food preferences (especially helpful if you're looking for vegetarian, vegan or dairy free recipes) and health considerations such as easy to swallow or high calorie.
Likewise Kee-moh Snacks is an Australian based organisation providing recipes to keep cancer patients nourished not nauseous. Again we couldn't find any Christmas specific ideas, but there are lots of delicious recipes which are easily categorised into meal type or side effect such as difficulty swallowing, sore mouth etc.