Eating a balanced, nutritional diet is very important for good health, especially for Children with Cancer, as they need the correct kind of nutrition to make help their compromised immune systems fight the cancer and other infections.
Children with cancer need protein, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals.
This is not always easy, however, as individuals with cancer often lose their taste for various foods due to the cancer treatments, and some treatments make one feel nauseous or make everything taste metallic.
It is also often difficult for parents who are struggling financially to try to find something that their child can actually stomach eating – sometimes they can only keep down something like cheesenax, and the parent, just grateful that they are at least eating something, will ply them with this snack – it is not nutritional however, so one needs to try other things.
Below are some nutritional, flavourful recipes that are easy to make and which are also light and easy to eat.
Turkey, Spinach and Apple Wrap
This is a healthy combination of plant-based, cancer-fighting foods and leftover turkey (you could also use chicken instead of turkey).
A wrap is appealing for a Little Fighter as it is easy to hold and offers a variety of textures – crunchiness from the apples and spinach, firmness from the turkey/chicken and creaminess from the simple dressing.
You can use store-bought wraps or tortillas or make your own if you like being in the kitchen, and it can also be fun for your child to give you a hand making them.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 Tbsp. low-fat mayonnaise
2 tsp. honey mustard
2 wraps or flour tortillas
2 cups (washed and dried) baby spinach leaves, loosely packed, or two large leaves of a soft leafy green lettuce
4 thin slices turkey breast (or chicken breast)
1/4 Granny Smith apple, sliced paper-thin
Combine mayonnaise and mustard. Lay out both wraps. Spread the edges of each with the mayonnaise mixture.
Leaving a margin free on the side closest to you, arrange a layer of greens on top of wraps. Top each layer with half the turkey.
Evenly divide apple slices and lay lengthwise across turkey.
Fold over the end of the wrap closest to you, then the two sides. Roll the wrap as tightly as possible toward the opposite side.
Cover each wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate, seam side down, up to 4 hours before serving. When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap and cut each wrap in half, at an angle.
Source: American Cancer Society (adapted)
Chicken and White Bean Soup
Chicken soup is very soothing, packed with protein and easy to consume.
Add in some white beans for extra flavour and even more protein, or substitute the beans for some noodles if you prefer.
This soup is particularly easy to make because it uses store-bought rotisserie chicken.
Ingredients (serves 6):
3 cups of rotisserie chicken or chopped cooked chicken breast
6 cups of low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
450g can white beans, rinsed
1 Tbsp of oil
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Shred the meat from the rotisserie chicken, omitting the skin and bones. Saute the onion, celery and carrots with the oil over a low to medium heat until the onions turn translucent (about 10 minutes).
Add the broth and chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes. Then add in the chicken and beans and cook for five minutes, season to taste and serve.
Source: American Cancer Society
Winter Veggie Pita Pizza
Yes, you can make a healthy pizza, and what kid does not love pizza!
If you’re not on a gluten-free diet then this may be a good choice for a healthy mid-week dinner with salad or a light lunch (these days there are many brands of gluten-free flour available too).
As with all pizzas, the toppings are entirely your choice but check out this recipe for inspiration.
Ingredients (serves 4):
4 whole-wheat pita breads
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup butternut squash, cubed
1 cup Brussels sprouts, quartered
½ cup sliced red onion
½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp pecans, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
8 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Pour the oil into a medium bowl and toss the butternut squash and Brussels sprouts through the oil, sprinkle with the cinnamon and then place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.
Once the vegetables have cooked, spread each of the pita breads with the ricotta cheese and then arrange along with the other ingredients evenly around the pita breads, sprinkling a couple of teaspoons of Parmesan cheese on each one when finished.
Bake in the oven, directly on the rack, for five to seven minutes until the cheese has melted and the pita breads are crispy.
Juices and smoothies are relatively quick and easy to make and much simpler than cooking a meal from scratch.
It is also often far easier to get a Child with Cancer to drink something than to eat a plate of food, especially if they are undergoing chemotherapy treatment and have sores in their mouths.
Smoothies are basically very nutritious glasses of deliciousness and are full of anti-oxidants and cancer fighting properties.
Smoothies can be used to help your child kickstart their day or give them a great energy and nutrition boost at any time.
Ingredients (serves 1):
1 cup peeled and diced pears (may substitute canned pears in 100 percent juice, no added sugar)
1/4 cup canned whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup apple or pear juice
1/2 teaspoon peeled, grated ginger root (may substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
4 or 5 ice cubes
Combine the pears, cranberry sauce, apple or pear juice, ginger root, lemon juice and ice cubes in the jar of a blender, and blend until smooth.
Taste, and blend in additional lemon juice as needed.
Source: Washington cancer nutrition specialist Danielle Cook Navidi
Red Beans and Rice Soup
This mild-tasting soup is kid-friendly, and the combination of beans, rice and sausage is a great source of protein.
This is a thick and hearty soup – it is basically a meal in a bowl.
Make Ahead: The beans need to soak for at least 8 hours, or up to overnight. The soup can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Ingredients (Makes 10 to 12 cups):
1 pound dried red beans, picked over, then soaked for at least 8 hours or overnight, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 to 8 ounces smoked turkey kielbasa, diced
1 cup chopped onion (from 1 medium onion)
3/4 cup diced celery (from 2 to 3 ribs)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (from 1 small pepper)
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
7 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth, or more as needed
2/3 cup raw basmati or jasmine rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped scallions, for garnish
Place the beans in a large soup pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.
Cook for about 1 hour, adjusting the heat to keep the liquid barely bubbling, just until the beans are al dente, or firm to the bite. (Alternatively, cook the beans, covered, at a brisk boil over high heat for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the beans sit in the water for an hour or so.) Drain in a colander, discarding the cooking liquid.
Return the empty pot to the stove over medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the kielbasa and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, the garlic to taste, brown sugar, thyme and bay leaves.
Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vinegar and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, then add the broth, beans and rice.
Cook uncovered, keeping the liquid barely bubbling, until the rice is cooked, 30 to 45 minutes, adding broth if the soup seems too chunky. Season with the salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves.
Source: Washington cancer nutrition specialist Danielle Cook Navidi