BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One of the biggest factors in cancer treatment has nothing to do with a doctor or medication. The food a patient eats during treatment can affect their outcome, but patients' appetites during chemo are usually less than healthy.
Chef Holly Clegg and oncologist Gerald Miletello, M.D. recently released the 15th anniversary edition of their successful cookbook, Eating Well Through Cancer. Originally Miletello's brain child, Clegg said it's become one of her most popular books.
"I think food gives you back control in your life," she explained. "You lose all control when you have cancer, and people want to know what is right and wrong, and not that there is a right and wrong, but they want some guidance."
"Everybody, when you tell them they have cancer, the first question is, 'What should I eat?'" Miletello said.
The answer is deceivingly simple. For the most part, patients can eat what they want as long as they're getting calories and protein. Miletello often explains to his patients that chemotherapy and other treatments work a lot better when the body gets its necessary nutrition. The challenge is eating around the side effects of chemo. Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and sore mouth are among the problems that often make food less of a priority.
"You lose your taste buds, and that's the big thing. How do you get the taste buds back? There are simple tricks we can do like putting a thin slice of lemon on your tongue before you eat to stimulate your taste buds," Miletello said.
The cookbook is full of tips, along with nourishing recipes to help ease specific side effects. The chapters address common challenges during treatment and also offer advice to caregivers.
"My goal is to hold the average person's hand and guide them through treatment with foods that are affordable, easy to make, and easy to find," Clegg said.
The 15th anniversary addition includes diabetic exchanges and expanded chapters based on feedback from around the country. "I had a couple of cancer
centers say we need more snacks and smoothies, so snacks and smoothies became a larger chapter in this book," Clegg explained.
Miletello regularly hears from patients about the difference the recipes make during such a stressful time. "The sore mouth chapter, patients tell me all the time, 'I don't believe it. I mean, I can eat these foods when I wasn't eating anything,'" he said.
Click here to see the book on Amazon.
Here's Holly's Spinach Artichoke Dip recipe that appears in the Sore Mouth Chapter. "It explodes with flavors of creamy Brie and Parmesan. Just eat with a spoon or some soft crackers or bread."
Makes 20 (1/4-cup) servings
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 (10-ounce) boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 4 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed and cubed
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In nonstick pot coated with nonstick cooking spray, sauté onion until tender. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, heating until bubbly and thickened.
- Add garlic, spinach, Brie, and Parmesan cheese, stirring until cheese is melted. Stir in artichokes, if desired and season to taste.
Nutritional Information per Serving:
- Calories 54
- Calories from fat 34%
- Fat 2g
- Saturated Fat 1g
- Cholesterol 7mg
- Sodium 125mg
- Carbohydrates 5g
- Dietary Fiber 1g
- Protein 4g
- Dietary Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat
Terrific Tip: Keep in the refrigerator to pull out for a snack or serve as a side vegetable. Leave out the artichokes for a creamy spinach dip if your mouth is really sore.
Nutritional Nugget: Between the spinach, milk, and cheeses, this is a calcium rich dish.