Helpful Strategies and Meal Ideas for Cancer Patients Undergoing Treatment
Meal preparation can be a struggle when you are fatigued. In general, the best foods to try will be simple and require very little preparation.
Meal Prep Strategies
- Shop and Stock: Before treatment starts fill your kitchen with foods like crackers, bread, pasta, rice, peanut butter, eggs, canned fruit, broth and canned soups, yogurt, frozen fruit and vegetables, chicken, deli turkey, etc. Having a well-stocked pantry will ease meal time preparation.
- Family and Friends: Loved ones can help alleviate the stress of shopping and preparing food.
- Have one person organize a task schedule for shopping and cooking.
- Recruit the help of family and friends to prepare meals and freeze them in individual portions. On days when you don't feel like cooking grab a frozen meal.
- Keep in mind that prepared meals should be lightly seasoned and low in fat.
- Cooked pieces of chicken or other meats are freezer friendly and can make meal prep easy. Other freezer friendly foods include soup, stews and baked goods like muffins or pancakes.
- Pre-made Foods: On occasion, buying prepared items like canned soups or frozen meals is helpful when you don't have the time or energy to cook.
- Leftover Power: When you do cook, prepare extra servings – these leftovers will come in handy later in the week.
Easy Meal Ideas
Below is a list of meal ideas/examples that are easy, light in flavor and require very little preparation:
Meal #1 (Take Out): Rotisserie Chicken, Baked Potato, Green Salad
Purchasing a rotisserie chicken from the local grocery store is a great option for a healthy meal, but saves you the effort of preparation (the leftovers are great too). An easy accompaniment is a baked potato or sweet potato – simply microwave it and you are ready to go!
Meal #2 (Sandwich Night): Deli Sandwich, Fruit or Raw Veggies with Dip
A balanced meal does not need to be complicated. A simple sandwich night is a great option when you don't have time or energy to cook. You can create a sandwich with deli meats, cheese, tuna, chicken or egg salad.
Meal #3 (Simple Salad): Entrée Salad
Use any leftover protein like chicken, hardboiled eggs, pork, beef, beans, lentils to prepare an entrée salad. Examples might be a Chef salad, Chicken Waldorf or a Taco salad. Add to it a dinner roll for a simple, healthy, no fuss meal!
Meal #4 (Breakfast for Dinner): Egg Sandwich, Fruit Smoothie
Enjoy breakfast anytime! Breakfast foods like eggs, pancakes, French toast, omelets are easy to prepare and nutritious. Round out the meal with a fruit and yogurt smoothie.
Smoothie Recipe: Blend 1 carton of yogurt, ½ cup milk and ½ cup fruit (fresh, canned or frozen)
Meal #5 (One Pot Meal): Soup
Try canned soup or an individual serving of ready-prepared frozen soup for a stress-free meal. Soups made with vegetables, pasta or rice and a protein like chicken, ground turkey or beans are well balanced. A good pairing for soup is bread, a dinner roll or crackers.
Meal #6 (Crockpot Meal): Chicken, Rice, Vegetable
Prepare chicken breasts in the crockpot for a no-fuss meal. Brown or white minute rice can be made in the microwave for a fast, easy side dish along with a frozen vegetable like peas or corn.
Darcy Stagman, MS, RD, CD is a clinical nutritionist at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. To schedule a nutrition appointment, call (608) 265-1700.