Conscious Cooking

I was recently asked by my friends at the AstraZeneca Hope Lodge to provide a handout of nutrition recommendations for the many kind and generous organizations that prepare meals for the Lodge residents undergoing cancer treatment.  Typical fare are cheesy pasta dishes and pizza, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, and savory and sweet desserts.  The food is beautiful, and it’s always obvious that lots of love and energy go into making it. 

My friends at the Lodge sought out my advice, however, as they were privy to the fact that this might not be the best fare on a regular basis for individuals undergoing or recovering from treatment.  So, the intention of this blog is to pass along these recommendations to boost your conscious cooking in the kitchen!

Lean Proteins:

Lean poultry, fish, eggs, beans, legumes, Greek yogurt. 

Cancer treatments are often pro-inflammatory, and consuming adequate protein is essential to protect lean muscle mass and promote healing and recovery.  Consider, too, that many individuals lose their appetite or have trouble eating due to side effects of chemotherapy or radiation.  When they do have windows where they’re interested in eating, it’s critical that high quality proteins are available. 

Healthful Fats:

Olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, nut oils, avocado, nuts, seeds and nut butters, ground flaxseed.

Find ways to cook and bake with these anti-inflammatory, restorative fats.  A bonus with healthy fats is that they add calories in relatively small portion sizes.  So when appetite is poor, adding a tablespoon of almond butter or canola oil, for example, can add a nutrient-dense boost to a small meal or dessert.

Best Bet Carbs:

Colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat flours, pastas and breads).  The phytonutrients and antioxidants in minimally processed carbohydrates are also essential for energy, healing, and recovery.  Forego the refined carbohydrates (white flours, refined breads, pastries, sugary desserts), as these tend to be pro-inflammatory, lack nutrition, and send blood sugar on a roller-coaster. Reduce or replace sugars in recipes with fruits or fruit purees, agave, honey, Stevia.

Putting it together, here are a few healing and energy boosting ideas!

Lean chicken or turkey and bean chili

Salmon cakes with steamed veggies and olive oil

Quinoa and bean salad w/ diced tomatoes and avocado

Whole wheat chicken and pesto pizza with veggies

Fresh berry and oat crumble

Chocolate Avocado Mousse (now where would you get a recipe like that??)

Greek yogurt and fruit parfaits

Dark chocolate dipped fruit

Remember that if you’re serving your someone special and they’re struggling with a poor appetite, offer very small portion sizes to start.  Just seeing a large plate of food can squelch hunger.  Also, allowing foods to cool before serving will reduce their odor, another possible stomach turner during treatment.

Of course, if your loved one is struggling to take in adequate nutrition (due to taste changes, pain with eating, etc), it’s best to consult your dietitian who can work on individual needs and preferences to come up with meals and snacks that fit the bill. 

Homemade comfort foods during cancer treatment are such a gift.  Just be sure there is some vital nutrition in those recipes to accompany the beautiful gesture. 

Fuel well...