For those living with head and neck cancer, eating can be challenging or even painful. However, nutrition for head and neck cancer patients is especially important during treatment. Beat this tough situation by having a supply of recipes that are packed with vitamins and calories at the ready. Here are a few ideas to get you started as you seek alternatives that work with your current challenges and taste preferences.
Liquids are a great option when it comes to nutrition for head and neck cancer patients. Soups, while a good idea to try, are sometimes full of noodles or vegetables that can cause problems for people who experience difficulty swallowing different textures. Fortunately, bone broths are packed with healthy calories and fats that can boost your immune system, support healthy digestion and still offer the feelings of comfort food.
You can make your own bone broth in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. Just add chicken or beef bones along with carrots, onions, garlic and a bay leaf. Cover with water and let it simmer overnight. The next day, strain it into mason jars for easy pouring. You can drink your bone broth from your favorite mug warm for a soothing meal you won’t have to fight to swallow. If your treatment plan has a recommendation for thicker liquids, you can add thickener to bone broth and it still tastes great.
Smoothies can offer you not only a nutritional boost, but can also be a sweet treat to break the monotony of meals. Giving your smoothie a yogurt base provides you with an extra boost of protein, calcium, probiotics and healthy fat. Begin with yogurt and add frozen berries or bananas, as well as a handful of leafy greens and honey to taste. If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can thin the smoothie out with orange juice, water or milk. Experiment until you find a flavor combination that hits the spot, and you can even add a chocolate syrup if that tastes good to you.
Applesauce isn’t the only fruit that can be made smoother for easier swallowing. Try poaching or steaming other fruits like plums and pears, which are delicious and great for digestion. Any stone fruits, such as cherries, apricots and peaches, hold up well to being cooked, and combine well with one another. Once you have cooked the fruit, toss it in the food processor to get the consistency you prefer. Add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and even a dash of cayenne pepper to add even more flavor to your creations. Fruit sauces can hang out in the fridge for a few weeks, and you can serve them frozen, cold or even warm with a dollop of ice cream.
These are just a few ways you can nourish your body and your mind while undergoing treatment for head or neck cancer. If you’re having difficulty finding your appetite, or are struggling with swallowing issues, work closely with a dietitian and with your oncologist to find a plan that works best for you at this moment.
Stay nourished during your cancer treatment by meeting with a nutritionist at the UVA Nutrition Center.Learn More