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Enjoying the Taste During Cancer Treatment

By Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES March 26, 2014Pearls of Wisdom Blog

March is National Nutrition Month. The theme for this year is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” If you have side effects from cancer treatment, “enjoying the taste” may be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you cope with changes in taste during cancer treatment.

  • Taste new flavors. Your tastes may change during treatment so use this time to try new flavors. Taste new herbs like parsley, basil, or tarragon. Add onion or peppers to vegetables to increase flavors. If things taste too sweet, switch to bitter or sour flavors like frozen fruit or pickled items. Try new flavors several times; it will take time to adapt to new tastes.
  • Add moisture. Moisture carries food flavors through your mouth which helps wake up your taste buds. To add more moisture and flavor, marinate meats. Pour on sauces, gravies, and condiments like steak sauces or ketchup. Before meals, rinse with water plus a pinch of baking soda to clean your mouth.
  • Say what you want. If family or friends are cooking for you, request flavors that sound good to you. When eating out, take with you a list of food ideas or your meal plan. Ask your server for any special food preparation you want. Examples include: grilled chicken instead of fried, roasted vegetables instead of baked potato, and salad dressings on the side.
  • Turn down the heat. If your mouth and tongue are tender from treatments, try flavorful foods with less heat. (Foods such as peppers, garlic, and citrus tend to be “high heat” foods.). Use more natural flavors of fruits, vegetables, broths, gravies, and vanilla or almond extracts to give flavors.
  • Experiment! Breakfast options can taste good any time of day. Hot beverages or steamed meals may be too much for your taste buds so reach for a milkshake or smoothie instead. If a metallic taste bothers you, use glass dishes and plastic utensils.

Visit My PearlPoint for additional nutrition tips for managing change in taste and smell.

Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Author Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Nutrition Educator Margaret Martin is a Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist in the State of Tennessee as well as a Certified Diabetes Educator. Margaret graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and received her Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science & Public Health from the University of Tennessee. With more than 10 years of experience in Clinical Nutrition, Margaret has also worked in the insurance industry with WellPoint Inc. and Blue Cross Blue Shield providing telephonic nutrition consultations, service assistance, and web-based nutrition education. In her free time Margaret volunteers with the American Lung Association’s annual “Lung Force Walk" in Middle Tennessee. She belongs to the Oncology Nutrition & Diabetes Care and Education Dietetic Practice Groups of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

More posts by Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

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