Health Care

Nutritional Tips for Kids Receiving Chemotherapy Treatment

A Mother Hands Her Daughter Carrot Sticks to Eat in the Kitchen.

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When your child is facing side effects from chemotherapy treatment like weight loss, nausea and loss of appetite, something as simple as eating can become a struggle. We’re here with support and resources to help them get the proper nutrition needed to grow and heal.

From how to prepare for mealtimes after treatments to advice on getting your little one to eat when they don’t feel hungry, our compassionate cancer care experts at AdventHealth for Children have compiled tips to ensure your child gets the nourishment they need.

How to Prepare for Meals After Chemotherapy Treatment

It’s important for children with cancer undergoing chemotherapy treatment to receive proper nutrition. A well-balanced diet helps them tolerate chemotherapy better, which may lead to fewer side effects.

Your child’s physician may recommend a high-calorie and protein diet to support their healing. Foods such as eggs, milk, nut butter and cheese are great ingredients to add to your child’s meals to ensure they get enough calories every day.

Here are more tips to help you prepare your child for meals after their chemotherapy treatment:

  • Encourage frequent sips of liquid to keep their mouth moist and your child hydrated
  • Keep hard candies with you to help combat dry mouth and the “odd” taste that can accompany chemotherapy
  • Use plastic utensils instead of metal ones; chemotherapy can cause a metallic taste, and metal utensils can enhance it

Foods to Avoid During Chemotherapy Treatment

To keep your child as comfortable as possible during and after mealtimes, there are some items that should be avoided during their chemotherapy treatments:

  • Drinks with caffeine, such as soda
  • Greasy, spicy or fried foods
  • Lightly cooked or raw fish, like sushi
  • Soft-cooked eggs or foods that contain raw eggs
  • Unpasteurized dairy products or cheeses
  • Unwashed fruits or vegetables
  • Vegetables that can cause gas, like cabbage or broccoli

Avoiding these food items can help make eating easier and safer for your little one during their treatments.

How To Navigate Upset Stomachs and Loss of Appetite

Chemotherapy can make children feel nauseated, causing them to lose their appetite throughout treatment. But it’s important to ensure your child keeps eating to promote healing. Along with loss of appetite, they may experience a side effect called early filling — when they feel full after only a few bites of food or sips of a drink. This can lead to weight loss, so it’s important to monitor their weight carefully during treatment.

If your child experiences loss of appetite or early filling, here are some ways you can make sure they’re eating enough:

  • Add butter, cream or grated cheese to foods to increase calorie intake
  • Keep serving sizes small so mealtime isn’t as daunting
  • Make healthy, high-energy snacks for your child to eat between meals
  • Make mealtime fun by playing music or letting them watch their favorite TV show
  • Offer five or six mini meals a day, rather than three normal-sized ones

If your child experiences nausea or vomiting that inhibits them from eating, try offering easy-to-digest foods such as clear liquids, gelatin, toast, rice, dry cereals and crackers.

Reach Out to Your Child’s Physician With Any Nutritional or Dietary Concerns

If you’re worried your child isn’t eating enough due to loss of appetite, mouth sores or nausea, reach out to their pediatrician or pediatric oncologist to get the support your child and family needs. Your doctor may recommend different foods, mealtime tips or numbing lozenges.

Compassionate Cancer Care Close to Home

Our pediatric cancer care experts at AdventHealth for Children provide compassionate whole-person care to kids facing cancer. Families don’t need to travel far to get top-quality, comprehensive cancer care. We have all the technology, treatments and experience to meet your child’s needs right here in Central Florida.

Learn more about how we can support you and your family through this challenging time here.

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