Owners' Blog

What is the Best Way to Cook for Someone in Cancer Treatment?

By Hilary and Greg Eldridge

Often people who are undergoing cancer treatment, whether radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery, have difficulty eating. Yet, it’s important that cancer patients eat nutritious food to help keep their bodies strong and help them to recover. If your parent has been diagnosed with cancer and is facing cancer treatment, being prepared to meet their nutritional needs will make the treatment period just a little bit easier.

Side Effects that Affect Eating

Although not all people experience the same side effects during cancer treatment, some of the common problems that can affect eating are:

  • Fatigue.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Sores in the mouth.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Constipation.
  • Pain.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.

Cooking for a Cancer Patient

In preparing food for a senior parent with cancer, one thing that is important to remember is that there is no need to stick to regularly scheduled meals. Because cancer treatment can cause a loss of appetite, when your parent is hungry, allow them to eat. According to the American Cancer Society, many people with cancer have an easier time eating several smaller meals rather than three larger ones.

Food safety is also essential. People who are undergoing cancer treatment may have a harder time fighting off infections because of weakened immune systems. Therefore, family caregivers and senior care providers who cook for cancer patients must pay special attention to expiration dates and be vigilant about washing hands and kitchen surfaces.

Depression and anxiety may cause cancer patients to lose interest in eating. Having someone to eat with can make mealtimes more pleasant. A senior care provider can sit with your parent while they eat so they don’t feel so alone. If your parent feels strange eating when the person with them is not, have the senior care provider sit with a cup of coffee or other beverage as your parent eats.

Food Tips

Knowing which foods to prepare for your parent can be a trial and error process, and what they can eat might change from one week to the next depending on how they are feeling. Here are some ideas for foods that may work for your parent:

  • Soft Foods: For patients with mouth sores or trouble swallowing, cook soft foods. Casseroles with pasta, rice, or potatoes can be a good option. They are easy to eat and digest. Avoid dry foods that are harder to swallow.
  • Bland Foods: If your parent suffers from nausea, try bland foods, such as poached chicken or rice-based dishes.
  • Increase Nutrients: Because your parent may eat less, it’s important that what they do eat is nutritious. Try to add extra protein to meals, such as chopped meats, eggs, or dairy products. Protein shakes, pudding, and cheese sticks are nutritious snack options.
  • Small Meals: Your parent’s appetite is likely to be reduced, so as you prepare food, think about portioning it into small containers that you can freeze for another day.

Cooking for someone with cancer can be challenging, but it is an effort that is worthwhile. If you find yourself struggling with finding the time to cook for your senior parent, hiring a senior care provider can help. A senior care provider can prepare meals for your parent, sit with them while they eat, and even assist them with eating, if necessary.


If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring senior care in Roswell, GA, please contact the caring staff at Home Helpers, call (678) 430-8511.