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Nutrition for Young Cancer Patients
By Texas Children's Hospital

While chemotherapy and radiation treatments kill cancer cells, they can also kill the appetites of young cancer patients. "Children going through cancer therapy need to eat so that they can keep up their strength," said Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer, chief of the long-term survivor clinic at Texas Children's Cancer Center. "But sometimes the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation can cause appetites to decrease and parental concerns to increase."

Dreyer, who also is an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, offers these tips to help parents make sure their children get the proper nutrition:

*Be flexible about meals. Small, frequent meals throughout the day are usually more effective than three large meals.

*Offer finger foods children can feed themselves, such as fruit, cheese, crackers, peanut butter, nuts and raw vegetables.

*Let your child eat when he or she is hungry. Don't force your child to eat if he or she is nauseated.

*Strongly encourage fluid intake even if intake of solid food is not optimal.

*Have your child take walks before meals to help increase his/her appetite.

*Make food fun. Decorate it with food coloring or by making shapes your child likes. Draw faces in pancakes, add sprinkles to desserts, or put food like Jell-O in cookie cutter molds.

*Let your child help with cooking if he or she is old enough. This sometimes creates more interest in the foods that are prepared.

*Try eating in different environments. Have a picnic, cookout or party with other children.

*Don't turn mealtimes into a battle or punish your child for not eating.

*Add calories to food to make every mouthful count. Serve fried foods or try adding some of the following to your child's meals and snacks:
o Cheese, cream, butter or whole milk
o Salad dressing
o Granola or dried fruits

*Instant breakfast in whole milk is a good high-calorie supplement to serve with meals or as a snack. For an even higher-calorie snack, mix the following and blend until smooth:
o 1 package instant breakfast
o 2 scoops of ice cream
o ¾ cups of whole milk
o banana, orange or peaches (optional)

For more information on Texas Children's Cancer Center, visit:www.texaschildrenshospital.org/cancer

 

 

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