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vegetarian cooking for chemo

Updated on July 31, 2012

Vegetarian Cooking for Chemo Patient

Cancer patients undergoing treatments like chemotherapy and radiation often suffer a dilemma: how to get enough nutrition while dealing with side effects like nausea, metallic or bitter taste in mouth, and loss of appetite. Many have difficulty tolerating meat. Below you'll find recipes for vegetarian dishes that might be more palatable.

Cards for Cancer Patients

Send Encouragement and a Smile

If cooking isn't something you can do, and visiting the patient might not always be practical, you can (and should) send greeting cards to let your friend or loved one know they're not alone. Cancer patients often suffer feelings of loneliness and isolation. A greeting card can be a life-line that brightens someone's day. Artist Corrie Kuipers and Nene Adams have teamed up to create a line of cards especially for cancer patients (pediatric patients, too). The images are bright and cheerful; the messages upbeat, positive and heartwarming.

Greeting Cards for Cancer Patients







Eat Your Veggies!

Naturally, anyone receiving cancer treatment should consult their nutritionist to get advice on the best diet to follow.

Since many cancer patients develop an intolerance for meat (sometimes it's the texture, other times it just doesn't taste right), adopting a vegetarian diet may be the answer to a difficult problem - how to get enough protein and nutrients.

Unless a patient is also lactose intolerant, or avoiding dairy for some reason, one way to get more nutrition and protein into their diet starts with Greek or European-style yogurt: it's thick, creamy and protein rich. Apart from its use in salad dressings (not recommended due to the inadvisability of eating raw, uncooked foods during treatment), dips and smoothies, Greek yogurt also makes a wonderful topping for cooked vegetables.


2 large potatoes, scrubbed, sliced into rounds, and boiled or steamed until tender*

1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks, and boiled or steamed until tender (note: I usually cook my potatoes and carrots together)

1 red onion or leek, cut into thin slices

1 red pepper, cut into strips

1/2 zucchini, cut into chunks

1 stick celery, cut into chunks

1 tomato, cut into chunks

1 cup butternut squash or pumpkin chunks (optional)

*You can substitute sweet potato, which you don't need to pre-cook

The point of this dish is to make sure your hardest vegetables, like the potato and carrot, are cooked BEFORE you add them to the dish.

Put all your vegetables into an oven dish, and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Some cancer patients desire strong flavors, others can't tolerate anything other than bland. Depending on the patient, you can add a crushed garlic clove, a chili pepper (de-seeded and chopped), or other herbs and spices (I like garlic, rosemary and paprika, but that's down to personal preference). You can also add other vegetables to taste, such as eggplant. leftover green beans, etc.

Place in 350 F (180 C) degree oven for 1/2 hour. Using a spatula, turn everything over. Cook another 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Serve with a big dollop of Greek yogurt. You can spice the yogurt if desired. Suggestions: garam masala, paprika, cajun seasoning, etc.

Hint: Leftovers are delicious warmed up, and served in a wrap with more Greek yogurt. Leftovers are also easily blitzed with chicken or vegetable stock (low salt or homemade, please) and turned into a comforting vegetable soup in which you could add small bits of chicken if that's tolerated. If not, stir some Greek yogurt though the soup.


7 oz. Greek yogurt (not low fat)

Soft fruit of your choice (strawberries, banana, raspberries, etc. - just make sure everything has been thoroughly washed)

2 oz. toasted slivered almonds (if too difficult to chew, whiz up in food processor or pulverize in pestle and mortar)

Put ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy. If not sweet enough, add a bit of honey, agave syrup, or other sweetener to taste. 7 oz. Greek yogurt contains 18 g. protein and `130 calories. Almonds (2 oz) contain 340 calories, 12 g. protein, and may help increase the effectiveness of some chemotherapy drugs (the Oncology Channel).

More recipes below!

Get More Recipes - For Healthy Eating During Cancer Treatment

More Comfort and Goodness!

Due to the ongoing controversy about soy (tofu, soy milk) and the possible bad effect it may have on breast cancer patients, some people will want to avoid soy products. Ask your doctor or nutritionist to get the best, latest advice.

If soy is out of a cancer patient's diet, try adding cheese. Just 100 g. cheese will give you 21 g. protein!


1 cup whole grain pasta (such as penne, farfalle or macaroni)

1/4 c. grated Fontina cheese (or Gouda, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, or Colby)

1/4 c. grated Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup cottage cheese

1 cup full fat milk

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain.

Put flour, butter and milk into saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until the sauce begins to simmer and thicken. Stir in cheese (except cottage cheese), reduce heat to low, and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Add cottage cheese. Pour sauce over pasta. Bake in an oven dish at 350 F (180 C) degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly and browned on top.

For added texture (and calories), take 1 slice whole wheat bread, whiz in the food processor to make crumbs, mix in just enough melted butter to moisten, then scatter on top of pasta in dish before baking. Crunchy and yummy!

Other cheese can be substituted: for a spicier dish, use Pepper Jack. Avoid very strong cheeses like blue cheese or aged Cheddar as these may be too sharp, unless a more intense flavor is desired. You can also give the sauce a bit more bite with a hit of cayenne pepper and a scrape of nutmeg.

The Bottom Line...

Cancer patients need to take in calories and protein to remain as healthy as possible during often harsh treatments. If a patient finds meat intolerable, substitutions are out there. A little creativity, and a lot of love, will always help.

Here's a final recipe for you to try: a sort of healthy dessert that's packed with vitamins.


1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, cored, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons apple juice

2 tablespoons maple syrup (real maple syrup, not pancake syrup) or sweetener of your choice

2 tablespoons butter

Pinch of salt

Cinnamon , allspice and nutmeg to taste

Put all ingredients into baking dish. You can add as much or as little spice as you like. Cover dish tightly with foil. Bake at 400 F (200 C) degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until squash is tender. Can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be reheated. Serve with a spoonful of maple syrup sweetened Green yogurt, or sweeten yogurt with honey, agave syrup, Stevia, or the sweetener of your choice.

If you need a practical gift to give a cancer patient, you'll find some suggestions below.

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      8 years ago

      Great, informative lens! Enjoyed checking out your recipes and I love your cancer cards!


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