Good nutrition during cancer treatment is important for a child or young adult to help them better manage their cancer treatment, fight infection, and repair tissue damaged by therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Lori Magoulas PhD, RD, a nutritionist in the pediatric hematology/oncology program at Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Jersey, shares tips for parents on helping their children eat well during cancer treatment.
Children’s nutritional needs vary by age, height, and general health, as well as the type of cancer and treatment, but most patients will have trouble eating and drinking at some point during treatment. This may be due to the cancer itself, the treatment, or the medications. Some treatments can cause side effects such as loss of appetite, taste changes, sore throat, mouth pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss or gain.
My son does not eat. What I can do?
For many reasons, children being treated for cancer may not feel like eating. If you are concerned that your child is not eating enough, you can encourage appetite by offering small meals and snacks throughout the day and encouraging hydration every 2-3 hours throughout the day. Add high-calorie foods like cheese and crackers, peanut butter and crackers, muffins, trail mix, full-fat yogurt, or smoothies. Make the most of it when your child’s appetite is at its peak. Add extra protein and energy by blending extra milk, cream, oil, avocado, or nut butters into meals or snacks. The most important thing is that you do not force your child to eat.
My son is uncomfortable. What I can do?
If your child is nauseated, which is common, try foods like toast and crackers, soft or mushy fruits and vegetables like canned peaches or pears, sips of clear liquids like water, broth, and fruit juices. It’s best to avoid fatty or fried foods, such as French fries, hot and spicy foods, or foods with strong odors.
Sources: Newswise, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey