Your doctor or Genmedicare will be able to provide you with the nutritional requirements of your child. He or she will also be able to teach you some methods for adapting recipes to help when your child does not feel like eating or is suffering side effects that make it harder to eat.
In general, children who have cancer need the same categories of food as a healthy child: protein, carbohydrates, fats, water and potentially other vitamins and minerals. However, your child may need more of these types of food. Your child’s diagnosis and level of activity will dictate how much to eat of the foods in these categories.
Protein is such an important part of your child’s nutrition. It helps the body grow, repairs tissues, replenishes blood cells and the immune system, and protects muscle mass. If your child is participating in cancer treatment, protein can help prevent infection and also help heal tissue.
There are many good sources of protein, including fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), beans, soy, peanut butter (and other nut butters), nuts, and peas.
Carbohydrates have a bad reputation when it comes to eating healthy. This is largely undeserved. Your body needs healthy carbohydrates (think fruits and vegetables, not cakes and candy). Carbohydrates are really fuel for your body. They provide you with energy and also help your organs function normally.
Good sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pasta, cereal, potatoes, corn, rice, and bread.
Fats are a very necessary part of your child’s nutrition. Fats are another food category that suffers from bad press. This is mostly because there are some fats that are healthier than others (look for unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats). Fats perform several important functions: They are necessary for insulating your body (providing a protective interior layer), for helping your body store energy, and for delivering certain vitamins throughout your body.
You can find unsaturated fats in seafood, fish, olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, corn oil, peanut butter, nuts and avocados. Saturated fats are found in many snack foods and in fried foods.
Staying hydrated (getting enough liquid) is important for everyone, but is especially important when you are sick. If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea as a result of chemotherapy or radiation, it is very important that you monitor his or her hydration.
Water and other types of drinkable fluids play an important role in body function. In fact, your cells cannot function without it. It helps regulate body temperature (helps you sweat), it flushes toxins out of the body, it helps circulate nutrients, and even aids in your digestion.
Drinking liquids is one way to stay hydrated. Make sure you offer your child plenty of water throughout the day. Water should make up the majority of what your child drinks, but you can also offer juice to drink.
Food is another way to keep your body hydrated. Many fruits and vegetables contain water. Soups are another good option for upping daily hydration.
Try to make drinking water fun and don’t turn it into a fight. You may want to try adding flavor to water by infusing it with lemon or strawberries.
In addition to eating right, it may be necessary for your child to take a good dietary supplement (vitamin or mineral). Your child may need to drink special shakes to rehydrate and give his or her body the vitamins that it needs. Know that in some cases, children with cancer cannot take supplements because they interfere with some cancer medicines and treatments. Always ask your doctor before offering vitamins to your child. Your doctor will determine if they are safe.