What Is a Parent to Do with a Picky Eater Undergoing Chemo?

Girl refusing to eat vegetablesA warning most parents receive after their child is diagnosed with cancer is to avoid sugar! This can be hard to do for a child who often loses their appetite during cancer treatment. Parents are caught between giving their child what they should eat versus what they are willing to eat, thereby, providing enough calories and nutrician to keep them from losing weight. This can be a tough choice; however, there are solutions. Let’s first consider dietary options.

Paleo or Ketogenic Diet, Is There a “Best” Diet?

One thing most experts agree upon, including medical doctors, is to reduce your child’s sugar intake and provide more fresh fruits and vegetables. A very common recommendation is to avoid processed foods, grains, most dairy products, and refined sugars. Opting for the Paleo Diet or Ketogenic Diet are often good choices. These diets offer easy recipes that children love to eat. The Paleo diet typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds—foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering. Paleo eliminates dairy, legumes, processed sugar and grains. The Ketogenic diet is a very low carb, high-fat diet. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

The Paleo diet encourages eating what our early ancestors ate, including lean meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and oils such as olive oil. The idea is that we adapted to the environment through evolution based on what was available for consumption.  However, our current farming and reliance on grains are considered a genetic mismatch, leading to obesity and disease. The Ketogenic diet gets most calories from protein and fat, cutting out carbs that digest quickly like sugar, soda, pastries, and white bread.

Vegan Diet

Still, others advocate for more grains and elimination of all animal products for a vegan diet plan. This dietary plan requires vigilance to supply the body with complete proteins and nutrients that can only be found in animal products such as B vitamins.

There are nine amino acids the body needs. Plant proteins vary and are considered incomplete, but two great options are soy and quinoa, which both have all nine essential amino acids and are, therefore, considered complete proteins.

Whatever diet you choose, no doubt there will be a study to support it. Most parents of cancer patients opt either for a Paleo or Keto diet. There are many great recipes and dessert options that children like. Both diets offer simple recipes, and once you get used to the substitutes for dairy and sugar, you can use almost any recipe with a few changes of ingredients.  It goes without saying, moderation is the key to any style of eating. Use common sense. Be practical. Make healthy food choices. Of course, you can ask your doctor, and some parents seek the help of a holistic or integrative medical professional.

Recipe Idea:

Here is a recipe that satisfies many diet plans. Although quinoa is often thought of as a grain, it is actually a seed and a complete protein. It cooks quickly and easily. This recipe is also gluten-free and Vegan if you skip the optional feta garnish.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Roasted Summer Vegetables

Get Help!

As you sort out which diet is best for your child during cancer treatment or recovering from cancer, there are ways to provide healthy meals for your family that can be quick and easy. Here to Serve offers families meal options that they help to facilitate. Depending on each family’s preferences, Here to Serve can set up a quality food delivery service, help volunteers cook healthy meals by providing easy recipes, or connect families with delivery services of organic ingredients if mom or dad still wish to cook. Also, volunteers love to make desserts and goodies, and with some guidance from Here to Serve, they can make desserts your child will love using monk fruit, stevia, and gluten- or grain-free flours.

Here to Serve does its best work to organize and manage volunteers to help a cancer family in ways that work best for each family. If you are inspired to donate to benefit pediatric cancer families dealing with issues like this and more, please visit Here to Serve’s donation and services pages to see where the money goes to help families and find out how you can make a difference in their lives.

By Amanda Enciso