Suggestions for supper for friend undergoing chemotherapy

and her cooking-challenged husband. Something to make ahead and drop off to them, with enough leftovers for a few more meals. They can do reheating, maybe some finishing off under the broiler, that kind of thing. It's on a weekday, so nothing I can't make ahead, slow-cook, etc. No dietary restrictions but I imagine with chemo, very spicy is not ideal.

  • Posted by: leen01
  • October 31, 2011


BoulderGalinTokyo January 18, 2013
Diana B-- that was a great link for this topic.
Diana B. January 18, 2013
This just popped up on NPR:
luvcookbooks January 18, 2013
Linked through and read the article. It also features a ckbk about cancer. Great resource both ways and I will be tracking down the ginger syrup and stock recipes.
luvcookbooks January 10, 2013
Laurel of Laurel's Kitchen wrote a book about cooking for sick people and caregivers. Pat Willard also wrote a book about cooking for invalids. Both contain some interesting recipes and thoughts. Best to individualize but there are some considerations based on illness.
rldougherty January 6, 2013
Shepherd's Pie is great because it freezes really well and is very comforting and does not have super strong flavors.
WileyP January 6, 2013
Everyone who goes through chemotherapy reacts uniquely to it, particularly when it comes to nourishment. Helen's All Night Diner and la domestique are telling it like it is. Ask your friend what sounds good to her and (particularly) what does not sound good to her. Generally speaking keep the aeromatics and strong herbs and spices a bit on the light side. My favorite while doing chemo was a small hamburger steak with mild gravy and an el-cheapo dinner roll.
And don't forget to include a gentle sweet for dessert. I make fudge puddles and ginger cookies and take them to the chemo dungeon when I go to the big city.
gr8chefmb January 5, 2020
Can you please provide more details on the 'fudge puddles' & perhaps share a recipe? My Dad was recently diagnosed w/ non-Hodgkins lymphoma & I'm trying to build an arsenal of recipes. Thank you in advance. I'm glad you are better. 😀
Diana B. January 5, 2013
I lived on matzo ball soup while on chemo; one of the better pieces of advice I got was not to eat anything I loved while on chemo because the altered taste may put you off forever.
ATG117 January 5, 2013
Not much needs to be added here. I'd just reemphasize that you should check with the person. Tomatoes and tomato based products should often be avoided, same with cheese and dairy for some. But again, these things differ from treatment to treatment. Most doctors will suggest focusing on calories if the person is losing a lot of weight i.e. make what the person wants and can eat. I think making something the one's family members enjoy is also very important. They need comfort too.
BoulderGalinTokyo January 5, 2013
My mom wanted watermelon--easy on mouth and gum complications.
Then she wanted cooked rhubarb, I wasn't prepared for that one seasonally. Sometimes an ice will work well.

On the other hand, "comfort foods" can be a problem. My sister said she felt obliged to taste a dish someone had prepared. The problem is she developed aversions to that comfort food (deliciously prepared), the problem being the chemical reaction within her body-she developed a hatred to some foods which lingers long after chemo. (Always says she wishes she'd eaten chocolate, then no weight problem)
la D. November 1, 2011
I'm with Helen's All Night Diner on this one. I had chemotherapy for leukemia, and from one week to the next my tastes changed. Keep it simple, though. It's about doing something nice for your friend without over-burdening them with questions and details. Simply ask what is off limits and what she is craving. You could also make her husband something nice and rich that would make him feel special, while doing something easy and light for her. Sometimes the caregiver needs more support than the actual patient. :) A comforting soup that's not too flavorful but still nourishing is always a good idea.
Helen's A. November 1, 2011
Having been through this myself, I would ask what the person wants. This may change day to day depending on how they are feeling. The different chemotherapies and the medicines they give you to counteract the side effects will change your appetite & your sense of taste. Things just don't taste right. Things you thought you would like, taste terrible. Yes, it is probably best to feed them the healthiest thing you can make, but don't be offended if that is not what the person wants to eat! My mother tried to get me to eat wheat grass & sea weed but all I wanted was a milk shake! I had 9 kinds of sea weed in my cabinets by the time I was done my treatments, LOL. Thank you for being such a good foodie friend, I'm sure your friend is most grateful to you!
Sam1148 November 1, 2011
I'm going to expand on the miso soup idea here:
Miso Master's is a good brand, I prefer the red miso for soup. AJI "DASHI" is an instant bonito stock--available in Asian Markets. Miso Master's is found in most health food stores and better Asian Markets. (And I think Whole Foods).
It's easy to make a bowl of the soup. Heat up a measuring cup with a tsp of the dashi crystals and water. (microwave is fine here)
In a bowl put in a tsp or so of the miso..put in a touch of the hot liquid. Beat with a fork to break it up.
Add some tofu bits and add the rest of the liquid. A Slice of orange, or plumb or other fruit on the side..a drink of iced ginger tea is a good little easy to digest meal that helps with energy when you're feeling sick.

A steamed (microwave potato slice) is good in the miso soup when it's cubed up too.
lorigoldsby October 31, 2011
Sam's advice for foods with ginger are spot on as they are a natural aid for anti-emetic (nausea) properties. When mom was staying with us after her double mastectomy, I think her favorite meal was chicken noodles and mashed potatoes...a little bit was all she could eat...don't make huge trays if lots of people are will go to waste. More than likely what you think as "one serving" will be enough.

But when Gran went thru chemo, she liked frozen grapes and these mini cheese balls. Think of a bite sized creamy cheese (Gran actually liked a mild bleu) rolled in nuts.
Sam1148 November 1, 2011
Another thing that might be welcome is Crystallized Ginger or some ginger type candies.
World market sells some ginger type candies/chews, and crystallized ginger.
I find them a bit too 'hot' and slice them up in small bits as the chunks are pretty big in the bags they sell there.
That and ginger green teas. Dried fruits, nuts, and savory crackers.
And one thing I really like when I'm sick or just tired is green tea sweetened with some of the simple sugar/steeped ginger. I like that better iced rather than hot. Also miso soup feeds the salt craving, and tofu is good for bland protein.
boulangere October 31, 2011
When my husband was going through chemo, his tastes changed radically as he progressed through it. At first, told that he might experience a loss of appetite, in fact his surged. At that point, I went for gentle proteins - lots of fish, chicken, beans. Further along, we went for gentle textures with heavy comfort that could be easily heated/reheated: macaroni and cheese, the lovely pot pies suggested here, risottos. If her husband is truly "challenged", perhaps you could get together a dinner brigade, where every couple of days someone in your and her friendship group brings something for the family to share for a couple of nights. I was privileged to be part of such a brigade for a friend undergoing chemo for lymphoma a few years ago. My job was to make sure that every 2 or 3 days they had fresh loaves of bread. I still remember the experience with great fondness and honor to have been a part of it. A few years later, the woman in question took my son's high school graduation photographs, and my nephew took her daughter to the prom.
Sadassa_Ulna October 31, 2011
Beef stew with carrots and potatoes, with nothing too stringy or fibrous, was what my good friend wanted and could eat when she was going through chemo. Rice pudding flavored with lemon zest and maple syrup was a success too. She really craved fresh papaya because it wasn't acidic (her words). And as drbabs mentioned, check with your friend about what other people are providing. My friend's husband was throwing away so much food because so much was [thoughtfully] being given to them. I wish your friend a speedy recovery.
Sam1148 October 31, 2011
An egg drop soup with the stock seasoned well with ginger might be nice.
Or maybe even a simple syrup simmered and steeped with lots of ginger..strained and put into a squeeze bottle and a few bottles of club soda for mixing ginger ale to her own tastes.
inpatskitchen October 31, 2011
All these answers sound wonderful, but check with your friend"s husband first...has she already started her chemo? She may not have any issues with food.. When I went through it I stocked up the freezer with lots of chicken soup thinking I wouldn't have an appetite or that the nausea would get to me...but no..with the wonderful medications around now most don't have the same issues that our parents may have had years ago. But comfort food through the winter is always appreciated!!
Droplet October 31, 2011
I remembered having seen a good book dedicated especially to cooking for cancer patients and survivors. .It's relatively inexpensive,and might give you some good ideas if you intend to cook for your friend more than once. Cream soups are another idea. If you make one good stock, you can make several different soup flavors relatively quickly. They can even be put into canning jars in single servings and sterilized for 5 min only. Will keep fine for several weeks. Maybe a large batch of biscuits, frozen in portions of several in a bag. Can be baked quickly in a toaster oven, and a warm biscuit and a bowl of yougurt make a light simple meal, when you don't feel like anything cooked. Hope your friend gets better.
BocaCindi October 31, 2011
When I was going through chemo my absolute favorite dish that someone made and brought to me was a chicken pot pie. It's all about comfort foods. As a person who loved the hottest of peppers, I found I didn't like things too spicy during chemo. Pleased to say I'm back to eating the hottest of the hot again. Chocolate mousse, rice pudding, custard, pot roast with mashed potatoes, and soups. Macaroni and cheese has already been mentioned, but a big yes to that. I found that the day after chem was great for eating. It was the next couple of days after that where I wasn't feeling so great. So a big thank you to anyone cooking for a person going through chemo. Can't begin to tell you how much you're appreciated.

Voted the Best Reply!

drbabs October 31, 2011
Make chicken soup, but for the first few days after chemo, your friend may not eat much. A big pot of spaghetti sauce (ground meat, lots of veggies) or chili can get them through a few days and can be frozen to be reheated later. Find out what her husband's favorite food is and make that for the first night or two when she's feeling ill. He'll get to eat well and will feel taken care of while he's taking care of her. For your friend, soft, sweet foods like pudding or custard may be all she can tolerate, if anything. Also, if you're organizing others to bring food, find out ahead what they want and how much food they can manage. I say this because last year I helped my sister when my niece came home from having extensive surgery. Her wonderful neighbors organized nightly food delivery. But they brought so much food that we ended up having to throw a lot of it away. Sometimes less is more. The best meal? roast chicken with potatoes and carrots and a big salad, a loaf of challah. (we made soup from the carcass.) The worst? Huge trays of enchiladas. A grocery store lemon cake that according to the label contained 30 servings at something like 500 calories per serving. Your heart is in the right place. Try to find out what they like and want and bring them that.
sdebrango October 31, 2011
My Mother stayed with me when she was diagnosed with cancer and undergoing Chemo. I made lots of veggies for her including salads. She was unable to eat very much, not because she didn't feel well, but because how food tastes is altered. I kept it simple somewhat bland. Casseroles with pasta and cream sauce, rice dishes. She could not eat foods laden with garlic and lots of spices and for some reason tomato whether in a sauce or fresh tasted terrible to her. I'm sure everyone is different in how the chemo affects them and what they want to or can eat. I think simple food not heavily spiced and not too heavy is what you should go for. Jessica's suggestions are good, mac and cheese or lasagna they keep well and are good reheated. I made vegetables for her green beans, greens or whatever you want that are steamed or sauteed in olive oil are easily reheated as is rice.
JessicaBakes October 31, 2011
Comfort food, absolutely. Ask her husband what she grew up on...was it mac and cheese? lasagna? pot pie? something else? Pick a dish that will be homey and bring back good memories
Recommended by Food52