A potential side effect of chemotherapy treatment is an issue with taste — either food not tasting like anything or a bitter or metallic taste in one’s mouth.

Food for Children with Cancer going through Chemotherapy is important because they need to keep up their strength and maintain weight.

Why does this happen, and what can you, as a parent, do to cope?

As chemotherapy kills cancerous cells, it kills other types of cells too, including taste cells. Fortunately, this change in taste is usually temporary – the chemotherapy agents in the bloodstream get into the saliva, giving it a metallic flavour.

The most important thing that you need to do for your Child with Cancer during and after treatment is to see that they eat sufficiently and that what they eat is nutritious, which can be rather difficult when your child has no appetite, may have sores in their mouth from the chemotherapy and when everything tastes different anyway.

Food Ideas for Patients Undergoing Chemo

Even if these changes in taste are normal, they are not easy to deal with. Here are some tips for specific taste-related issues.

  • If Foods Taste Flavourless: Try adding sauces, condiments, spices, chopped onions, cured meats, maple syrup, bacon bits, tart citrus fruits, pickled foods, garlic or sharp or flavourful cheeses (think aged cheddar or blue cheese) to your child’s food.
  • If Foods Taste Salty: Cut back on the salt you add to foods, including no salt in the water when boiling pasta. Skip prepared foods and crackers, which are notoriously high in sodium. If you do give your child processed foods, choose low-sodium versions.
  • If Foods Taste Too Sweet: Mix acids or salts like lemon juice, table salt or plain yoghurt into the food. If you still want to give your child dessert, add some toppings like cottage cheese onto fruit or crumbled pretzels onto ice cream. Swap out traditional desserts for cheese and crackers, or make your own rice pudding using less sugar than normal. Avoid syrups and jams at breakfast, add butter or fresh fruit instead. If your child wants juice or soda, dilute it with water first.
  • If Smells Bother Your Child: One’s sense of smell affects taste and can also be altered during chemotherapy. If something smells bad, your child won’t want to eat it. Try to get them to eat foods at room temperature. When cooking, keep the ventilation going or open the windows so that the smell dissipates. Use straws and cups with lids, if drink smells bother your child, and add lemon or cucumber slices to water if it tastes metallic.

Whatever issues your child is experiencing, remember that it is perfectly OK for them to skip certain foods or drinks they used to love, whatever food it is. This is a great opportunity to introduce your child to new foods or cuisines.

It may also help to give your child more liquids and keep sugar-free gum, candies or mints handy to eliminate the taste temporarily. Also, switch to plastic utensils if the metal ones affect their sense of taste.

Also, ensure that your child has no dental issues affecting their sense of taste. You can also make a homemade mouth rinse for them to use before eating or when their mouth tastes funny – mix a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda with a litre of water.

The best kinds of food for cancer patients going through chemotherapy are simply “foods they will actually eat.”

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