Chemo can alter your taste, sensation of feeling, your ability to smell, and cause untold side-effects that will alter the way you see yourself and the world. Chef Ryan Callahan has developed a few tips that can help making eating enjoyable again.
Cooking for chemotherapy patients is extremely difficult, especially when you don't have the knowledge or resources to understand what changes have occurred to the person. Chemo can alter your taste, sensation of feeling, your ability to smell, and cause untold side-effects that will alter the way you see yourself and the world. Here are some tips and techniques that I used when I was the primary caretaker for my mother during her chemotherapy treatments.
1. Hydration: Ingest a lot of fluids.
Dehydration is no joke. Water regulates many functions of your body including digestion, muscle movement, and taste. There are many ways to get water into your body: sports drinks, soup, vegetables, fruits, food in general, or even drinking plain old water.
2. Palate Cleansers
Palate Cleansing is a technique where you utilize a subtle and almost imperceptible sour note in your cooking to create the illusion of lightness inside of a dish. Palate Cleansing is important because as you progress through chemotherapy and the side-effects become stronger, you can develop a very strong metallic taste in your mouth and sometimes even lose the ability to taste anything but metal. Palate Cleansing is a fantastic technique for waking up those taste buds and clearing out that metallic taste from your mouth. Palate Cleansing is also a great way to make heavier foods feel light in your mouth allowing you to eat more nutrient dense dishes without feeling ill or disgusted while you eat them.
Simply add 1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar to your meal. Sour flavors should always be followed by a bit of sugar to mask the actual sour flavor. Great food items for Palate Cleansing include: Vinegars, Citrus Fruits, Parsley, Cilantro, and so much more!
3. Sanitation Goes A Long Way
You have to keep your kitchen and your home clean! Chemotherapy kills your auto-immune system and a dirty home is the fastest way to other illnesses like food poisoning. You want to make certain to sterilize every counter, kitchen surface, cooking surfaces, and even your refrigerator with a disinfectant like a bleach and water solution.
4. Roundness of Flavor
In short, this is the key to cooking for people going through chemotherapy. Roundness of Flavor is a culinary theory that encompasses every aspect of the actual tasting experience. When you eat food, you experience food with all of your senses not just your mouth. Roundness of Flavor teaches you to find all five flavors (salty, savory, spicy, sour and sweet) and experiences (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing) and bring them into balance. If your sense of taste and smell come out of balance, you have to find which aspect of the sense has come out of balance and compensate to bring balance to your body. For example, if you are extra salt sensitive during chemo you will reduce the salt content of a meal, but increase the savory or spicy characteristics to bring balance to your dish.
5. Eat Lighter Meals More Frequently
Did you ever notice that when you hear about a new diet the first thing that they tell you is to eat less but more often? This is a great tip for people that are experiencing strong chemotherapy side-effects, as you will be able to get more nutrients into your loved one more often without making them feel nauseous from eating too much. This was especially true with my mother. We would always make sure to get her to eat 5 to 6 small meals per day, even if that meant eating the same thing twice. The increase in frequency and decrease in quantity will help with nausea and ease digestion over all.
Do you have any cooking tips of your own? Share yours with others in the comments below!