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Oncology: Recipe for Taste Changes

August 10, 2018

Taste changes can result from cancer treatments. While it is not clear as to how this happens, it is hypothesized that cells in the oral cavity are sensitive to chemotherapy treatments. This side effect is also associated with nausea and vomiting. Read below about some of the suggestions American Cancer Society has to help cope with these changes.

 

  • Try sugar-free lemon drops, gum, or mints.  Chemotherapy can make food taste like metal, so gums and mints can help control the bitter or metallic taste in the mouth and relieve dryness.

  • Try fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Instead of canned or frozen ingredients, try using fresh fruits and vegetables because they tend to have a better flavor. You can blend fresh fruits into shakes, ice creams, and yogurt.

  • Season foods with tart flavors like lemon wedges, lemonade, citrus fruits, vinegar, and pickled foods. (If you have a sore mouth or throat, do not do this.)

  • Add spices to provide foods with new taste. Marinating foods may also help add flavor. Some suggestions for seasonings include onion, garlic, chili powder, basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, BBQ sauce, mustard, ketchup, or mint. Counter a salty taste with added sweeteners, sweet taste with added lemon juice and salt, and bitter taste with added sweeteners.

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Rinse your mouth with a baking soda, salt, and water mouthwash before eating to help foods taste better. (Mix 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 quart water. Shake well before swishing and spitting.) Keep your mouth clean and brush your teeth to help ease bad tastes. Brush your teeth before and after every meal

  • Serve foods cold or at room temperature. This can decrease the foods’ tastes and smells, making them easier to tolerate. Cold or chilled foods may taste better than warm or hot foods. Cold and room temperature foods tend to have less of an aroma. If you are cooking warm foods, try using an exhaust fan or other techniques that can help reduce odors. For drinks, try to drink with a straw.

  • Substitute red meats- these meats tend to have a metallic taste so try other protein-rich foods like chicken, fish, eggs, or cheese.

  • Avoid smoking- it can leave a bad taste in the mouth. Smoking can leave a dull taste and change the shape of taste buds.

  • Eat small meals frequently and increase fluid intake. Eat 6-8 meals daily and drink water with every meal as well as in between meals.

Try one of Optimal RD’s favorites: Shrimp & Veggie stir-fry lo mein.

This recipe uses fish, a great substituent to red meats as well as fresh vegetables. It also includes great flavoring such as Soy Sauce and Hoisin Sauce, as well as garlic powder, salt and pepper.  

 

---Ingredients---

  • 8 oz Lo mein noodles (can be found in World foods aisle at HEB)

  • Fresh mixed vegetables ( great options include, broccoli, bell pepper, edamame, carrots and water chestnut)

  • 16 oz fresh shrimp (or chicken/ other protein rich foods like egg and tofu)

  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce

  • 2 tbsp Hoisin sauce

  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

  • Garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste

---Instructions---

  1. In a large pot or saucepan, boil water and cook lo mein noodles according to directions on package

  2. Heat the skillet (or wok) over medium heat and add olive oil. Swirl oil around to coat the bottom of the pan

  3. Add shrimp or protein of choice to the pan.

  4. Cook the shrimp until halfway cooked through (about 4-5 minutes)

  5. Add vegetables and saute

  6. When vegetables are warm, add soy sauce, hoisin, and seasonings, continue to saute

  7. Cover skillet for about 5 minutes

  8. Drain lo mein noodles

  9. Add lo mein noodles to stir-fry mixture and season to taste

  10. Enjoy!

     

Sources:

  1. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/staying-active/nutrition/nutrition-during-treatment/taste-smell-changes.html

  2. https://www.cancercenter.com/community/nutrition-tips/coping-with-taste-changes/

  3. http://chemocare.com/chemotherapy/side-effects/taste-changes.aspx

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