A loss of weight and appetite (cachexia) is a common occurrence in patients diagnosed with cancer or those undergoing treatment. During this stressful period, it is important to focus on a healthy diet and nutrition. However, on account of side effects of therapy, this is easier said than done.
Many patients experience "dysgeusia", which means distortion of a sense of taste. In addition, the body is busy on multiple fronts: fighting cancer and simultaneously working to repair the damage caused to the good cells by radiation or chemotherapy. Dietary preferences and patterns often change, with favourite foods losing their flavour and three large meals being too hard to stomach. High-calorie foods that may not be ideal when healthy may be exactly what the doctor ordered when one is undergoing cancer therapy. In this scenario snacking can provide those extra calories required to rebuild the body, prevent weight loss and increase energy levels.
Yogurt, paneer, eggs and fruits can provide the body with calories and nutrients to help in the fight against cancer.
Indian cuisine can come to your rescue as it incorporates tasty snacking options that can be used to supplement the main meals of the day. Yogurt, paneer, eggs and fruits can provide the body with calories and nutrients to help in this fight. It is important to remember that what works for one cancer may not work for others: for example, patients with head and neck cancer may have more difficulty with soreness of mouth and may derive more benefit from cool liquid foods, whereas someone with pancreatic cancer may not be able to tolerate a high fat diet.
Here are some helpful tips from the American Cancer Society:
- Try and eat frequently instead of waiting to get hungry.
- Eat your favourite food anytime (if you feel like a breakfast snack in the middle of the night: JUST DO IT).
- Try to avoid empty calories: make each snack rich in protein and calories as these help the body heal itself.
- Listen to your taste buds as they can change with treatment and experiment with your food. You may be pleasantly surprised and find foods that you previously avoided are now on top of your list.
Cancer therapy is a tough journey with multiple speed bumps along the way, but determination, grit, the right nutrition and frequent snacking (try some recipes listed below) can go a long way in overcoming some of the barriers.
Homemade Masala Paneer
This traditional Indian cheese is made by adding an acidic agent like lemon juice or vinegar to milk. This helps in separating the milk for the curd. Though, traditionally a part of the main meal, this can also be modified into a snack.
1 litre toned milk
½ litre full fat milk
½ bowl beaten curd/yogurt
2tsp white vinegar
Finely chopped coriander, mint, ginger, salt to taste
Squeeze of lime
Bring the milk to a boil and add the curd. Just as the milks starts to separate, add 2 tsp of white vinegar.
Add chopped coriander, mint, ginger. You can add other herbs too based on your taste preference.
Once the milk separates fully, take it off the fire and add ice to cool it down quickly. Sieve it through a muslin cloth. Strain all the water out and press it hard under a heavy object such as a rolling plate.
Sprinkle salt and lime as per personal taste.
Recipe Courtesy Dr Geeta Pant
Cancer therapy can result in sores in the mouth and what can be more soothing than a refreshing, cool yogurt drink like lassi. The beauty of lassi is that you can tweak it easily to your requirements - for example, by adding milk or cream to increase its calorific value or adding fruit to pack it even more full of nutrients.
200ml full-fat yogurt
50ml ice water
¼ gm saffron
Sugar syrup, to taste
Soak saffron in 25ml warm water, cool, blend rest with the other ingredients.
Serve garnished with few strands of saffron.
Recipe courtesy Chef Kirti Pant
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