Cancer treatments can steal a person's appetite at the time the body needs it most.
A healthy diet — one with a variety of foods that includes fruits, vegetables and regular protein — can help manage cancer treatment side effects, and provide the reserves of nutrients the patient needs to help rebuild the body's tissues and keep the immune system strong to help fight off infection.
When a breast cancer patient doesn't feel like cooking, friends and neighbors often drop off prepared meals. But they can be uncomfortable choosing dishes that will provide the proper nourishment and taste. Patients sometimes say the treatment affects their sense of taste, and food might seem to lack flavor or taste too sweet, salty or metallic.
In a new cookbook, Fix-It and Forget-It Pink Cookbook, (Good Books, $24.95) Phyllis Pellman Good interviewed breast cancer survivors to discuss how important food is in the survivor's recovery. Good has teamed with Avon Foundation for Women Breast Cancer Crusade, and for each copy of the cookbook sold, $1 will be donated to the foundation.
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Fix-It and Forget-It Pink isn't a health guide, but it's designed for the person who wants the cancer patient to know, "I'm here for you."
Good, who has written 15 Fix-It And Forget-It cookbooks, has put together 700 slow-cooker recipes in this Pink edition.
"Food can settle us down, bring us together, strengthen our friendships, distract us from our fears, underline hope, remind us that we are not alone," Good said in her introduction.
"Funny how often food came up when I was talking to the fiercely courageous people whom we feature in the front section of this cookbook. In fact, for many of them, fixing food was a burden — until — some good souls stepped in and brought them meals. This food took care of an immediate need, but it quietly whispered another message from those who brought it — 'We're with you.'"
In Healthy Eating During Chemotherapy (Kyle Books, $16.95), chef Jose van Mil and medical specialist Christine Archer-Mackenzie discuss eating difficulties that occur when cancer patients undergo treatment, and they explain the effects of food on cancer, which foods are good to eat, and which are not.
They explain how antioxidants in a number of foods have the potential to support cancer treatments and list foods that contain high levels of antioxidants. Foods high in protein are important because protein helps build and repair tissue, retain muscle mass and maintain a healthy immune system. Additional protein is usually needed after surgery and during cancer treatment.
Here are some suggestions from The Markey Cancer Center for the patient undergoing treatment.
■ Eat small, frequent meals. This will help with appetite, nausea and vomiting. Small meals, spaced two to three hours apart, are often easier to tolerate and digest.
■ Make sure to eat breakfast. Morning is typically when most people have the best appetite and can eat more. Also, eggs are a great source of protein and nutrients.
■ Try a new fruit or vegetable each time you go to the grocery store. Each fruit and vegetable is unique and will have different nutrients that are beneficial. Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day can be very beneficial.
■ Avoid high fat, greasy and fried foods. These foods often cause nausea and vomiting.
■ Add low-fat cheeses to meals to increase calories and protein. Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. Add cheese to scrambled eggs at breakfast or add an extra pinch on top of your spaghetti at dinner.
■ Adding lentils to meals can add extra calories and protein. In homemade soups, add Northern or pinto beans. Beans are good sources of fiber.
■ Fiber can be useful in cases of constipation or diarrhea. Substitute whole grain breads and cereals in the place of white breads and high-sugar cereals. Oatmeal is also a great option for increasing fiber in your diet.
■ Drink fluids between meals. Sipping throughout the day might help with nausea and vomiting, and increase the calorie and fluid intake you will need. Make sure to include lots of water and to limit the amount of soft drinks.
■ Maintain healthy food preparation methods. Make sure to cook food thoroughly to prevent food-borne illnesses. Try individually packaged foods such as yogurt, pudding and canned fruit in water.
These recipes are from Fix-It and Forget-It Pink.
Pot roast with gingersnap gravy
3- to 4- pound beef rump roast
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 large yellow onion, cut in 8 wedges
1 cup beef stock
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet seasoning
20 gingersnaps, finely crushed
Season roast with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker. Scatter onion wedges over top of beef. Spoon beef stock into cooker, being careful not to wash the seasoning or onion pieces off the beef. Cover and cook on High for 6 hours. Remove roast from cooker and keep warm on a platter covered with a tent of foil. Add Kitchen Bouquet to liquid in cooker. Stir in gingersnap crumbs, until thickened. Slice meat and top with sauce for serving. Makes 8 servings.
Slow-cooker chicken fricassee
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 can reduced-fat cream of chicken soup
½ soup can water
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
½ cup chopped onions
1 teaspoon paprika
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Place chicken in slow cooker. Mix remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Pour over chicken. Cover. Cook on Low 4 to 6 hours, or until chicken is tender but not dry and the vegetables are as tender as you like them. Serve over cooked noodles or rice. Makes 4 servings.
¼ cup melted butter
½ cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup butterscotch chips
½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup chopped nuts
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
Layer ingredients in a bread or cake pan that fits in your slow cooker, in the order listed. Do not stir. Cover and bake on High 2 to 3 hours, or until firm. Remove pan and uncover. Let stand 5 minutes. Unmold carefully on plate and cool. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
This recipe is from Healthy Eating, which contains more than 100 recipes that focus on the texture of food and portions that are small and manageable.
Fluffy tomato cream
2 stems fresh chives
½ cup whipping or soy cream
2 tablespoons live-cultured or soy yogurt
2⁄3 cup tomato purée
Pinch curry powder (see note)
Chop chives very finely. Whip the cream with remaining ingredients until creamy and fluffy. Divide cream between two small glasses and sprinkle chives on top. Makes 2 small portions.
Note: Curry powder is optional. It contains turmeric, so you can use turmeric instead of curry powder if you prefer.