Diet During Radiation

Ask the Nutritionist

Q: My son is completing 15 sessions of radiation therapy. His mouth is currently so sore that he cannot eat comfortably. I've stocked his dorm refrigerator with pudding, yogurt, JELL-O, mac and cheese (all soft foods) and bought him Ensure with vitamin and mineral supplements. He has no interest in eating right now as it hurts too much. How soon will the sore mouth subside and how do I get him to take SOMETHING in until his mouth feels better? I'm desperate. He's an 18-year-old athlete who is very active and needs some caloric support.

Kelly, Athol, Massachusetts 

A: You are on the right track. Moist, soft foods are the best choices for nourishment when someone has a sore mouth from treatment. Fortifying the amount of nutrients in these foods can also help make small portions count for more nutrition. Some basic tips for helping your son get more nutrition to promote healing and recovery, include:

  • Eat small amounts, more often
  • Drink your nutrition: make smoothies, frappés, and other high calorie/high protein drinks
  • Choose room temperature foods and beverages
  • Fortify foods with more calories and protein
  • Blend canola oil into shakes
  • Add olive oil during and after cooking to vegetables, grains, and potatoes
  • Make oatmeal or cream of wheat with milk instead of water
  • Add gravy, sauce and sour cream to foods
  • Add dry milk powder to mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, soups, and other foods for additional protein
  • Blend silken tofu into smoothies, shakes, and soups for protein
  • Stir together 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter and 1 tablespoon of canola oil to make a dressing-like consistency and stir it into yogurt, hot cereal, or soak soft bread in it
  • Try moist, soft foods like shepard's pie, quiche, pureed soups and chowders, mac and cheese, avocado, banana, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes (add gravy), pasta with alfredo sauce, custard, pudding, and cheesecake (without the crust)

Your son could benefit from meeting with a Registered Dietitian to develop an individualized eating plan.

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