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Eating during cancer treatment: Tips to make food tastier
If food tastes too salty
A little sugar may tone down the saltiness of some foods. Cook foods without adding salt or seasonings containing salt. Avoid processed foods that contain a lot of sodium. Look for products labeled reduced sodium or low sodium. Try bland, mild-flavored foods.
If meat doesn't taste right
If the meat is fresh and cooked properly, but it just doesn't taste right, serve other foods that contain protein, such as:
- Beans or peas in soups, salads or side dishes or as a dip or spread
- Cottage cheese
- Egg dishes
- Fish — fresh, frozen or packed in a vacuum-sealed pouch, as canned fish can have a metallic taste
- Instant breakfast-type drinks or other nutritional beverages
- Macaroni and cheese
- Peanut butter
- Tofu or tempeh
Other suggestions for meat:
- Try meat prepared in combination with other foods, such as chili, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, casseroles, stews or hearty soups.
- Try sauces, ketchup and other seasonings, which may improve the flavor.
- Try marinating meat, chicken or fish in marinades, soy sauce, sweet fruit juices, wine or Italian-style dressings.
- Try salty, spicy or smoked meats, such as seasoned beef steaks, pork loins, ham, sausage or cold cuts.
- Try high-protein foods that may taste better cold or at room temperature. Examples include cheese or cottage cheese plates; macaroni salads with shrimp, ham or cheese; tuna, egg, ham or chicken salad; cold meat or luncheon meat sandwiches; or cold salmon.
If your cancer treatment has weakened your immune system, some of these foods may not be safe for you. Practice food safety by keeping foods at safe temperatures. Don't let perishable foods sit out for more than an hour. Avoid unpasteurized juice, cheese or milk, and raw or undercooked meats.
Foods that look appealing often taste better.
- Select foods with a variety of colors, temperatures and textures.
- Drink liquids often or use gum, mints or hard candies to remove a bad taste in your mouth.
- Try using plastic utensils if you have a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth when eating.
- Check with your dentist to see if you have any dental problems. Maintain good oral hygiene.
- Check with your doctor to see if your taste changes could be related to your medications. In some cases, your doctor may adjust your medications to reduce or eliminate side effects. Don't stop taking your medications unless your doctor tells you to.
- Check with a health care professional about mouth rinses.
If these measures don't help, or if you're losing weight, ask your doctor or a registered dietitian for further advice.Previous page
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- Eating hints: Before, during and after cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/eatinghints. Accessed June 1, 2012.
- Nutrition in cancer care. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/nutrition/patient. Accessed June 1, 2012.
- Nutrition of the cancer patient. American Institute for Cancer Research. http://www.aicr.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pub_nutrition_cp. Accessed June 1, 2012.
- Suggestions for increasing calories and protein. Nutrition Care Manual. American Dietetic Association. http://nutritioncaremanual.org/index.cfm. Accessed June 1, 2012.