(HealthNewsDigest.com) – New Brunswick, N.J., – Eating well during cancer treatment is important for a child or young adult as this helps them to cope better with their cancer treatment, fight infection and repair tissues damaged by therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Lori Magoulas PhD, RD, nutritionist in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, shares tips for parents on how to help their child eat well during cancer treatment.
What you need to know:
Nutritional needs of children differ with age, body size and general state of health, as well as the type of cancer and treatment, but most patients will experience problems with eating and drinking at some stage during treatment. This can be due to the cancer itself, treatment or medication. Some treatments can cause side effects such as appetite loss, taste changes, sore throat and mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss or weight gain.
My child won’t eat. What can I do?
For many reasons, children being treated for cancer may not feel like eating. If you are worried about your child not getting enough to eat, some suggestions for encouraging an appetite include offering small meals and snacks throughout the day and encouraging them to drink every 2 to 3 hours during the day. Include calorie-dense foods such as cheese and crackers, peanut butter and crackers, muffins, trail mix, full-fat yogurt, or smoothies. Make the most of when your child’s appetite is at its best. Add extra protein and energy by mixing in extra milk, cream, oil, avocado, or nut butters into meals or snacks. Most importantly, don’t force your child to eat.
My child feels sick. What can I do?
If your child experiences nausea, which is common, try foods such as plain toast and crackers, fruits and vegetables that are soft or bland such as canned peaches or pears, sips of clear liquids such as water, broth, gelatin and fruit juices. It is best to avoid fatty, greasy, or fried foods such as french fries, hot and spicy foods or foods with strong odors.
Resources for Patients and Caregivers
At Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health, your child’s multidisciplinary psychosocial support team includes a registered dietitian who is available for individual nutrition counseling and education. Personalized, age-appropriate nutrition plans can be made in cooperation with the family and, when appropriate, with the patient. Parents can learn more about the different types of care offered by the multidisciplinary team in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program by visiting https://cinj.org/patient-care/pediatric/ForParents.