Cooking for someone with cancer
Preparing food for someone with cancer can be frustrating. There are many reasons why the person can’t eat what you have prepared. Some people just don’t feel like eating.
You may feel you have tried everything without success. Many people experience this and there is no easy solution.
To understand your feelings a little better, remember we often express our love or feelings for someone by giving food. If this food is not accepted, for whatever reason, it is natural to feel upset. If you try to make food less of an issue, it can reduce stress for everyone. There is no need to follow a strict eating plan – simply provide what the person feels they can comfortably manage.
Look after yourself
It is important to take care of your own well-being. Caring for someone who is unwell can be exhausting and stressful, and even more so if you are not used to cooking and doing household chores. If you can, try to arrange some time off for rest. Accept offers of help from family, friends and neighbours.
There are services available to help, such as community transport, shopping services, home help, Meals on Wheels.
Many of these services can be used on a short- or long-term basis and arranged by a social worker, doctor or nurse.
Special tips if your child has cancer
Children need good nutrition for normal growth and to cope with the stress of treatment. It is important to encourage your child to eat a balanced diet and to stay physically active if possible while they have treatment. This isn’t always easy – your child may use food to express their anger, despair or frustration at being sick or being different from other family members.
Continuing normal daily routines as much as possible will also help your child feel part of the family; meal times are important times for families to share.
Loss of appetite or a feeling of fullness is a side effect of some treatments. There are many ways to stimulate your child’s appetite and improve their nutrient intake.
Aside from the tips already given on this page try these extra things:
- Let your child have food any time, not just at meal times, so that nourishing snacks supplement small meals.
- Be flexible in meal patterns and food choices – allow your child to have breakfast cereal for dinner if that’s what they want. Sometimes fatty or sugary foods like chips and chocolate may be useful high-energy snacks if they are all your child wants to eat. Any nourishment is better than none, but don’t let these foods become a habit.
- Make meal times as relaxed as possible and try to make sure the family eats together at least once a day.
- Don’t eat in front of the television as it can be distracting.
- Encourage your child to make meal times special by letting her or him plan the table setting, using decorated paper cups, coloured drinks or other features.
- Introduce novelties such as fancy drinking straws, patterned plates, coloured eggs or vegetables cut into interesting shapes.
- For a younger child who is kept home from school, try a picnic or brown paper lunch bag.
- Have takeaway food occasionally, to tempt fussy eaters.
- Use the time between treatments, while there are no side effects, to make up for any nourishment your child may have missed during treatment.
The Cancer Council NSW has prepared a detailed guide to Food and Cancer, which is available HERE. The booklet provides information on ways to deal with eating problems that may occur due to cancer or its treatment. It covers dietary information for patients in cancer treatment, recovery, post-treatment and advanced cancer stages.