How to Help Your Child (with cancer) Eat Better

by Team Onco
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All children need sufficient nutrition to grow. Children who are going through cancer treatment need additional nutrition to heal.

It is generally recommended that a high calorie and high protein diet be provided to children during this time.

There are three categories of foods that you can immediately include in your child’s daily diet to increase protein consumption:

  1. Eggs and lean meats: Chicken, fish, eggs, lamp, turkey

  2. Dairy products: cottage cheese, paneer, other types of cheese (like cream cheese), curd

  3. Peanut butter (on roti, bread, biscuits, crackers, over apple slices and with salads like carrot sticks)

cancer diet for kids : Peanut butter on bread

Peanut butter on bread

Apart from proteins, your child also needs sufficient quantities of carbohydrates, micro-nutrients, and fats.

Let’s look at solutions to some of the most common problems parents of children with cancer face with regards to nutrition.

“My child is losing weight.”

Let’s look at some ideas to increase your child’s calorie intake:

  1. Add ghee (clarified butter) to all dishes, including rotis, toast, vegetables etc.

  2. Cubes of cheese or string cheese can be a fun food for children to play with as they eat.

  3. Add milk powder to all desserts, milkshakes, rice porridge etc.

  4. Children tend to love sweetened condensed milk in desserts or as a dip for breadsticks and as a spread over roti. They might even be willing to have it by the spoonful.

cancer diet for kids: Condensed milk on rotis

Condensed milk on rotis

Your doctor will be able to suggest some tasty supplements like store-bought high calorie drinks to reduce the weight loss.

“My child is a fussy eater.”

It is usually recommended that you identify your child’s favourite foods and allow them to indulge in those during the treatment phase. This means that they can have jams, custard etc from time to time without too much restriction.

However, it is also important to ensure that they are getting some healthy nutrition alongside these. Here are some ideas:

  1. Make whole-wheat pancakes in full shapes like stars and hearts using cookie cutters. Add maple syrup and heavy cream over the pancakes to make them more enticing.

    Teddy bear shaped pancakes

  2. Add natural food colours like juice of beetroots or carrots to plain foods like idlis and dosas to make them look new and interesting.

  3. Add dates syrup to milk shakes, yogurt and puddings.

Apart from what you serve, it’s also what happens at meal times that can lead to better food intake.

  1. Get more family members to eat at the same time as the child. This will make mealtimes more fun for them.

  2. Avoid pressuring the child to eat more and let the mealtime conversation be around happy things like friends or stories.

  3. Allow the child to participate in making fun snacks like pizzas (selecting their own toppings), tricolour sandwiches, fruit chaats or cookies. This might motivate them to eat more.

    cancer diet for kids:

    Make pizzas together

  4. Try a change of scene from time to time. For example, have a pretend picnic on a rug on the flood, with a picnic basket and milk served from a flask. Or you could have a pretend restaurant once a week, where you set the table and pretend to be a waiter.

  5. Let them invite a friend or neighbour over for a meal. Allow them to plan the menu so that they feel a sense of ownership about the meal.

“My child eats less quantity of food.”

If your child is unable to ear more in one sitting, try and include a snack between every two meals. Here are some fun snacks that will help them maintain a good weight.

  1. Potatoes: Most children tend to love these. You can serve them as chips, wedges, mash, or as stuffing in samosas and puffs. Provide a dip of ketchup, mayonnaise or chutney to make it more interesting for them.

  2. Eggs: These are an easy snack option when you have less time on your hands. You can serve them as omelettes, scramble, bulls eye, french toast, or as stuffing inside parathas and sandwiches.

  3. Noodles and pasta: be it of the instant kind or freshly made, you can add enticing flavours to these based on your child’s preferences.

  4. Yogurt: Add bits of fruits, jams, syrup, honey etc to the yogurt to make it tastier.

cancer diet for kids: Yogurt with honey

Yogurt with honey

“My Child has diarrhea.”

Diarrhea is a common side-effect of cancer treatment but it’s always best to check with your doctor if there could be any other reasons for it.

  1. It’s important to increase the fluid intake of your child as diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Apart from water, tender coconut water, smoothies, soups, and juices will also help. You can find recipes to prevent dehydration here.

    cancer diet for kids:: Apple smoothie with cinnamon (dal Cheeni)

    Apple smoothie with cinnamon (dal Cheeni)

  2. Look out for symptoms of dehydration like dryness of the mouth, less frequency of urine or dark colouration of urine, and dizziness. Contact your doctor to counter dehydration.

  3. Cut down on fibre-rich foods like all types of dals (lentils and beans), dry fruits etc till the diarrhea subsides.

  4. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables.

“My child has constipation.”

Generally a high-fibre diet relieves constipation but when the constipation is a result of medications, then just a change in diet might not help. Speak with your doctor about suitable laxatives.

Ensure that your child consumes plenty of fluids and stays active during the day.

“My child feels nauseous and vomits often.”

  1. Stick to foods that are easy to digest like soups, soft rice, toasted bread and crackers.

  2. Reduce the size of the meals and increase the number and frequency.

  3. Get the child sipping on fruit juices, or water flavoured with jeera or mint leaves,  throughout the day.

  4. Avoid extremes in food temperatures (too hot or too cold) and tastes (spicy, sweet, strong flavours).

  5. Try ginger candy, peppermints or other types of hard candy to reduce the nausea.

Remember to consult your oncologist before making any drastic changes to the diet and before including new foods.

You can also use this Indian meal plan to plan all meals for a whole week. You can download and print it.

If you have any specific queries related to cancer diet, you can email us at community@onco.com or call us on 79965 79965.

 

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