Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment

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Recipes to try during cancer treatment

High-calorie, high-protein shake and drink recipes

If you need more calories or have trouble swallowing, try the following recipes – but keep in mind that they might not be right for everyone. If you want to increase calories but not fat, use reduced-fat dairy products. If you’re eating well and maintaining your weight, there’s no reason to increase your calorie intake.

Follow these basic instructions for all the drink recipes below:

  • Place all ingredients in a blender container, or mix in a large container with a hand-held blender.
  • Cover and blend on high speed until smooth.
  • Chill before serving.
  • Store unused drinks in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of powdered milk to each recipe to increase protein.

Note: If you can’t tolerate milk or milk products, or if you have diabetes, ask your nurse or dietitian for other recipe ideas.

Fortified milk

    Drink or use in cooking to add protein

    1 quart whole or low-fat milk
    1 cup powdered non-fat dry milk

    Blend and chill at least 6 hours. Can also be made with buttermilk or dry buttermilk.

    (211 calories and 14 grams of protein per cup)

Sherbet shake

    A refreshing shake

    1 cup sherbet
    ¾ cup low-fat milk
    ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

    (320 calories and 8 grams of protein)

Tangy protein smoothie

    A thick, protein-packed drink

    ⅓ cup cottage cheese or plain yogurt
    ½ cup vanilla ice cream
    ¼ cup prepared fruit-flavored gelatin (can use individual ready-to-eat snack pack)
    ¼ cup low-fat milk

    (275 calories and 13 grams of protein)

Classic instant breakfast milk shake

    A protein- and calorie-packed favorite

    ½ cup low-fat milk or fortified milk (see first recipe)
    1 envelope instant breakfast mix
    1 cup vanilla ice cream (add flavorings or different flavor ice creams for variety)

    (450 calories and 14 grams of protein)

    Increase flavor and calories by adding fresh or frozen fruit or chocolate or strawberry syrup. Add peanut butter or dry milk for extra protein.

Peach yogurt frost

    A frosty, mild drink

    1 envelope vanilla instant breakfast mix
    1 cup low-fat milk or fortified milk (see first recipe)
    1 (6-ounce) container low-fat peach yogurt
    1 cup frozen peaches

    (Makes 3 servings; 155 calories and 7 grams of protein per serving)

    Try substituting other fruit combinations that appeal to you.

Homemade soup recipes

Chicken and white bean soup

    1 rotisserie chicken breast section or 3 cups chopped white chicken meat
    1 tablespoon canola oil
    3 carrots, sliced
    2 celery stalks, sliced
    1 onion, chopped
    2 cups water
    6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
    1 (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
    Pepper and salt to taste

    Remove wings from chicken and reserve. Remove skin from breast and discard. Shred the meat from the breast and break off breast bones.

    Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Sauté the carrots, celery, onion, chicken wings, and breastbones for 8 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables soften.

    Add water and chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring to combine. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add beans and chicken meat and cook for 5 minutes. If too thick, add more broth or water. Discard bones and wings before serving. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 6 servings.

    Approximate nutrients per serving: 235 calories, 5 grams of fat, 28 grams of protein

Hearty turkey minestrone soup

    1 pound ground turkey breast or lean ground beef
    1 onion, chopped
    2 carrots, chopped
    2 celery stalks, chopped
    8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or beef broth
    1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    1 teaspoon dried basil
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    ½ cup small pasta, such as orzo or pastini
    1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
    1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or white beans, rinsed and drained
    Pepper and salt to taste
    Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

    In a stockpot over medium-high heat, sauté the turkey and onion until the turkey is cooked through. Add the carrots and celery and sauté for 10 minutes, or until softened. Add the broth, tomatoes, basil, and oregano and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Add the pasta, frozen spinach, and chickpeas or beans and cook for 10 minutes, or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese. Makes 14 servings.

    Approximate nutrients per serving: 120 calories, 1 gram of fat, 13 grams of protein

Spicy cream of broccoli soup

    3 cups broccoli florets and peeled stems, coarsely chopped
    1½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    3 cups low-fat milk
    ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
    ½ teaspoon pepper
    ¼ teaspoon paprika
    ¼ teaspoon celery seed
    Pinch cayenne pepper, optional

    In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the broccoli and broth to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until very tender. Cool slightly. Transfer to a blender or food processor and purée. Set aside.

    In the same saucepan over medium heat, add the oil and onion. Sauté the onion for 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the flour and cook until fully incorporated, stirring constantly. Gradually add the milk and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add the reserved broccoli purée, salt, pepper, paprika, celery seed, and cayenne pepper and stir well to combine. Makes 5 servings.

    Approximate nutrients per serving: 115 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein

Potato soup

    3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
    2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
    ½ onion, coarsely chopped
    2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon flour
    2 cups low-fat milk
    Pepper and salt to taste

    In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the potatoes, celery, onion, and broth to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly. Transfer to a blender or food processor and purée. Set aside.

    In the same saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook until fully incorporated, stirring constantly. Gradually add the milk and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add the reserved potato mixture to the saucepan and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. (This soup thickens when chilled and may need to be thinned with more chicken broth or milk.) Makes 6 servings.

    Approximate nutrients per serving: 125 calories, 3 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein

References

American Diabetes Association. Sugar Alcohols. 2013. Accessed at www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/sugar-alcohols.html on May 21, 2015.

Bloch AS, Grand B, Hamilton KK, Thomson CA et al. American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Nutrition for Cancer Survivors: Eating Well, Staying Well During and After Cancer. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2010.

Chrohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Short Bowel Syndrome. Accessed at www.ccfa.org/assets/short-bowel-syndrome-and.pdf on May 21, 2015.

Demark-Wahnefried W, Rogers LQ, Alfano CM, et al. Practical clinical interventions for diet, physical activity, and weight control in cancer survivors. . CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.2015;65:167-189. Accessed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/caac.21265/full on May 22, 2015.

Doyle C, Kushi LH, Byers T, et al. Nutrition and physical activity during and after cancer treatment: an American Cancer Society guide for informed choices. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.2006;56:323-353. Accessed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/canjclin.56.6.323/full on May 21, 2015

Eldridge B, and Hamilton KK, Editors, Management of Nutrition Impact Symptoms in Cancer and Educational Handouts. Chicago, Il: American Dietetic Association; 2004

National Cancer Institute. Eating Hints Before, During, and After Cancer. 2011. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/eating-hints on May 20, 2015.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network. (NCCN) Cancer-Related Fatigue, Version 2.2015. Accessed at www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/fatigue.pdf on May 21, 2015.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Dry Mouth. Accessed at www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/DryMouth/DryMouth.htm on May 20, 2015.

Newmaster SG, Grguric M, Shanmughanandhan D, et al. DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products. BMC Med. 2013 Oct 11;11:222. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-222.

New York Attorney General Office. A.G. Schneiderman Asks Major Retailers To Halt Sales Of Certain Herbal Supplements As DNA Tests Fail To Detect Plant Materials Listed On Majority Of Products Tested. Accessed at www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-asks-major-retailers-halt-sales-certain-herbal-supplements-dna-tests on May 20, 2015.

Rock CL, Doyle C, Demark-Wahnefried W, et al. Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012. 62:242-274.Accessed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/caac.21142/full on May 22, 2015.

Szfranski M. Weight Gain During Cancer Treatment. July 5, 2012. Accessed at: www.cancer.org/cancer/news/expertvoices/post/2012/07/05/weight-gain-during-cancer-treatment.aspx on May 20, 2015.

Thalheimer JC. A Soluble Fiber Primer – Plus the Top Five Foods That Can Lower LDL Cholesterol. Today’s Dietitian. 2013 Dec;15:16.

US Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Accessed at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ on May 22, 2015.

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Last Medical Review: 07/15/2015
Last Revised: 07/15/2015