Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and several cancer medications can cause mouth sores, ulcers, and tender gums. All can cause your mouth, throat, and tongue to feel sore, raw, or dry and may lead to dehydration, poor eating, and weight loss. The following tips and recommendations may help you to manage sore mouth, throat, and tongue.

Choose soft, bland foods.

  • Softer foods will be easier to chew and swallow.
  • Soups and stews are good options, as long as meats are soft and tender.
  • Try breakfast foods like instant oatmeal, grits, pancakes, waffles, and cold cereal that has been softened in milk.
  • Pick side dishes like cottage or ricotta cheese, macaroni and cheese, mashed white or sweet potatoes, and rice or risotto.
  • Try desserts like custard, tapioca pudding, ice cream, milkshakes, and sherbet.
  • Choose snacks like applesauce, gelatin, smoothies, and yogurt.

Prepare foods in ways that make them easier to eat.

  • Cut foods into small pieces. You may consider using a blender or food processor to puree foods.
  • Cook foods until they are soft and tender.
  • Serve foods with gravy, broths, or sauces.
  • Choose soft or canned fruits or applesauce instead of raw fruits with tough skins.

Avoid foods and drinks that make mouth sores worse.

  • Avoid citrus fruits and juices, salty or spicy foods, and acidic foods like tomatoes.
  • Do not drink carbonated or caffeinated drinks.
  • Refrain from having beer, wine, liquor, or any other type of alcohol.

Avoid very hot foods.

  • Hot foods can cause mouth and throat discomfort.
  • Choose room temperature or cold foods that are soothing.
  • Allow soups and hot foods to cool to room temperature before serving.
  • Try freezing fruits, and suck on frozen fruit pops, fruit ices, or ice chips.

Choose foods that are good sources of protein to combat weight loss.

  • Aim to have a good source of protein with meals and snacks.
  • Ground meats, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, custard, beans, lentils, and smoothies are good soft food choices that also provide protein.
  • Eat small, frequent meals. You may find it easier to eat smaller amounts at a time.

Drink at least 8-10 eight-ounce glasses of water each day.

  • Drink liquids with your meals as this will make it easier to swallow foods.
  • Sip cool drinks in between your meals.
  • Drink with a straw. This can help push the foods past the painful sores in your mouth.
  • Avoid caffeinated or/and carbonated beverages.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can irritate the mouth.

Use good mouth care.

  • Rinse your mouth several times a day. Mix one quart water and one teaspoon baking soda to make a rinse that removes food and promotes healing.
  • Do not use a mouthwash that has alcohol. Alcohol makes a sore mouth worse.
  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Remove dentures (except during eating) if your gums are sore. Keep dentures clean.
  • Avoid cigarettes, cigars, and tobacco products.
  • Ask your doctor about special mouthwashes and sprays that can numb the mouth and throat.
  • Tell your doctor if your gums are bleeding or if you have white patches in your mouth. Both can be signs of infection.

Foods To Eat with Sore Mouth, Throat, or Tongue

Proteins Soft, bland, ground or pureed meats, poultry, and fish

  • Hamburger meat
  • Chicken or tuna salad

Chicken and rice
Tuna noodle casserole
Egg, cheese, or bean dishes
Scrambled or hard boiled eggs
Mashed beans with cheese
Plain or vanilla yogurt
Creamed soups and stews
Creamy peanut butter
Liquid nutrition supplements


Carbohydrates Soft, moistened breads
Cooked cereals

  • Instant oatmeal or grits
  • Creamed wheat or rice

Cold cereals soaked in milk
Pasta or rice in sauce
Macaroni and cheese

Fruits and Veggies Soft, cooked, or pureed fruits

  • Bananas
  • Applesauce
  • Watermelon
  • Canned fruits
  • Baby food

Soft or cooked vegetables
Pureed or mashed vegetables
Mashed potatoes
Soups and stews

Drinks Non-acidic juices and fruit nectars

  • Apple juice
  • Pear juice

Decaffeinated coffee and tea

Condiments Butter
Vegetable oils
Cream cheese
Sour cream
Desserts Vanilla pudding
Cakes, cookies, and pie soaked in milk
Ice cream or sherbet

Foods To Avoid with Sore Mouth, Throat, or Tongue


Spicy foods

  • Spaghetti
  • Tacos
  • Curry dishes
  • Chili

Tough, dry meats, poultry, or fish


Dry, tough breads
Crusty bread and rolls
English muffins
Salted breads

Fruits and Veggies

Citrus or acidic fruit

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Pineapple

Raw vegetables or fruits with tough skins
Pickled fruits and vegetables
Tomato, raw or cooked


Citrus juices

  • Grapefruit
  • Orange
  • Lemon or lime
  • Tomato

Caffeinated drinks
Carbonated drinks

Condiments and Spices

Hot or pepper sauce
Chili powder
Marinara sauce


Chocolate desserts




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