Suggest foods to tempt my messed-up, post-chemo appetite

I beg the collective culinary imagination and genius of the Dope: please help me!

I just finished seven weeks of cancer treatments: radiation and chemo (Taxol, Carboplatin, and Erbitux, if anyone’s interested). As predicted by all the medical people, the side effects are not gone yet, and I am having trouble with food. My appetite is crippled in four ways:

  1. The chemo gave me a TERRIBLE taste in my mouth, all the time: soapy and stale, like soap scum and hangover breath. Many things, including plain cold water, taste ghastly. Anything bitter (coffee, chocolate, beer, garlic, etc. :frowning: ) is absolutely out. Things that taste good tend to be strong on the other tastebud receptors: sour, sweet, salty, or a combo of those.

  2. The radiation was to the side of my neck and gave me a bit of a sore throat. Swallowing is easier than it was, but things need to be smooth and not too acidic.

  3. I’m a little nauseous most of the time, and a lot nauseous some of the time.

  4. My sense of smell is hyperalert – our fridge, for instance, being respectably but not spotlessly clean, like most fridges, makes me gag even from the next room. Cooking chicken smells like death.

Foods I’ve been relying on for weeks that I am now sick of: sorbet and ice cream in fruit flavors, especially raspberry and mango; borscht with the ingredients grated; pudding; custard; mashed potatoes; fresh mozzarella; Kalamata olives; gently-cooked scrambled eggs

Foods I’m not sick of yet and can swallow if I chew well enough: Bacon (thank Og), pepperoni, several kinds of veggies, non-citrus fruits if they don’t have seeds or if the seeds are taken out (like raspberries), some kinds of cheese

Foods you would think I could eat, but that hurt going down: every kind of bread, cereal, or pasta I’ve tried

I am so hungry! I dream of food, delicious food, every time I fall asleep, but nothing I dream about is anything I can eat right now. I’m not up to cooking, myself, but my wonderful husband is on hand to pamper me. All suggestions welcome. Suggestions it turns out I can use will get my undying gratitude and maybe an IOU for a firstborn child or two.

When I had 4 impacted wisdom teeth out, and was extremely nauseous/frequently vomiting I was eating a lot of similar foods to your list, and getting frantically bored with them, but I could only eat liquid or foods requiring almost no chewing.

In my desperation I tried some fish sticks – which I would not normally eat – and they were like manna from heaven. The breaded kind that basically has mashed up really bland fish inside, not the kind made of actual slabs of fish and battered. Since the product is marketed to picky toddlers it does not have much smell (or indeed, taste, but sometimes “different” is all you need). You can peel off the breading easily if it hurts.

Another suggestion is hummus. I had a stomach virus recently that made everything in the universe seem unappetizing but I was able to eat some hummus without feeling the desire to throw it out the window in revulsion.

I ate a lot of oversized crunchy salty pretzels with sharp cheddar cheese. It worked for me.

I found that I could drink soft drinks from a plastic bottle, but I couldn’t use metal utensils or drink from metal cans. I was told that was a reaction to the steroids rather than the chemo itself (I was on CHOP), but plastic forks & spoons and plastic bottles saved the day.

. Cheddar is now on my “to try” list. Thank you! I was eating a lot sliced Parmesan a few weeks ago, until at a certain point it started tasting like plain salt. But I had a little cheddar on scrambled eggs last week and it was Good, so I should try some more.

I’ve heard and read that most folks on Taxol get “metallic” Evil Taste instead of “soapy,” and was advised to try plastic, so I did. Sadly, it seems to make no difference.

Hello Again, fishsticks make me nauseous all on their own at the best of times, I’m afraid! Hummus is a great idea, but the one I’ve tried so far did not work. The bitterness of most garlic and onions is a sneaky trap in many foods for me right now. I can handle naturally sweet onions like Vidalias if they’re cooked (thank goodness – I have often felt thankful that I was not born into a Hindu family that eschews all alliums for Vedic reasons).

This might be a good time to try miracle fruit- it’s got the weird property of blocking bitter tastes in food. If you eat it, you’ll be able to suck on lemons without it tasting bitter. Might open up a few options for you.

Crispy bacon dipped in guacamole.

Stirfry, with whatever veggies you have/can stomach (I like corn, just barely cooked through so it’s still sweet, when I’m feeling blech), soft noodles and lots of soy sauce.

Polenta flavoured with pretty nearly anything: grated cheese, whatever herbs or spices seem good to you at the time, mushrooms, good butter and salty stock, crumble some bacon into it, etc. You can have it so soft it’s almost like soup, or dense enough to griddle in blocks, to give you some variety of texture. Risotto also gives plenty of non-threatening flavour options.

Do you have mouth ulcers as well? Rice pudding made with coconut milk and honey is soft enough to eat when they’re bad, plus the ingredients seem to be a fairly effective (certainly traditional, and works for me anyway) home remedy (and if bitter’s out, so’s camomile tea, which is what everyone always seems to recommend for ulcers!).

If sweet onions work for you I have a killer onion gratin recipe! I’m not positive if we can link to blogs but Closet Cooking gave me this great recipe -


2 large yellow onions (peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon thyme (chopped)
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of white wine
1/4 cup of parmigiano reggiano (or gruyere)


  1. Spread the onions into a baking dish and drizzle them with olive oil.
  2. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the thyme.
  3. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile heat the heavy cream and wine in a sauce pan until it starts to bubble on the edges.
  5. Remove onions from oven and spoon the cream onto them.
  6. Cover in foil and bake for another 35 minutes.
  7. Remove the foil and sprinkle the parmigiano reggiano on top.
  8. Increase the temperature to 450F and bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

These onions taste great and go down smoothly. Hope you feel better soon!

If sweet and salty taste good to you, you might want to try smoothies made with banana, honey, milk and some peanut butter, blended together. I drank these when I was recovering from a tonsillectomy - easy to swallow, and you get most of the food groups in there.

I’m thinking maybe a hot-and-sour soup? It’s got salt and sour. Google around and find a recipe you think you can tolerate. Leave out anything that bothers your tastebuds or nose. Use a vegetarian broth if chicken is bothering you, or rely on the other flavors in the soup (soy sauce, vinegar, a bit of sugar, chili) to be enough flavor.

Normally these have a bit of beaten egg in them, it seems, but you could pass on that if it bothers you.

I thought it turned sour (not bitter) into sweet? Sour tastes are fine right now but do tend to irritate my throat. I see in the Wikipedia article that it’s being investigated for chemo-induced “metallic” style Evil Taste, so it might be worth a try in any case. Thank you.

Oh hell yes. Added to the list. :smiley: <-- See? grinning guy is green from all the guacamole.

I think I’ll try this in another week, when my throat’s had a chance to heal more. I didn’t mention earlier that the start of all this was tongue cancer, and I had a partial glossectomy which has made my tongue a weird, lumpy shape; consequently eating food that comes in diverse shapes/textures in each bite – like stirfry – can be difficult to chew thoroughly. With a normal throat this doesn’t bother me.

Ooh, these sound good. Any recipes to suggest? I don’t think my husband has ever made either polenta or risotto. Risotto’s tricky to do well, right?

Fortunately no mouth ulcers. Rice pudding is my husband’s default pudding (he was raised on Laurels’ Kitchen), and though I’ve asked for it plain recently, I’ll probably be able to go back in a week or so. A coconut milk version sounds like a welcome variety… any recipe suggestions?

Thank you for all these goodies, Teacake!

Good lord, I’m drooling now. I think it just might work. Thank you!

Spicy Hummus?

Hmmn, I should try this. I’ve been resistant to smoothies because our household default smoothies are always made with Spriutein, which currently tastes nasty. But of course there’s no reason a smoothie has to have any. :smack:

My husband suggested trying to make some of this a few weeks ago, but I passed because I don’t really like the stuff normally. Of course, this is not “normally”, but I’d hate for him to go to a lot of trouble (and cooking is indeed a lot of work, the way he does it) if I end up not being able to eat it, and I don’t think he’d like it himself. But (again, :smack:) why don’t I get some delivered? or send Husband for takeout? There’s not a huge variety of restaurant food available where we live, but we can get cheap Chinese.

Philster, spicy anything is sadly out until my throat heals completely. I can dream, though.

How about milk shakes?


& would your husband be up to making home made hummus? I never use tahini in mine - & you could leave the garlic out.

Polenta is basically just cornmeal, you add as much water or stock as you need to make it to the consistency you want. It should have instructions on the box, and if your husband’s a competent cook he shouldn’t have too much trouble with it. WRT flavouring it, just cook up anything you’re adding and stir it through at the end.

Risotto’s not difficult as long as you don’t freak out and start adding fluid too soon. Make sure the rice grains have actually started going translucent in oil/bacon grease/butter before adding any fluid at all. Then add fluids a little at a time, stirring almost constantly (to be honest I tend to forget about it slightly, but it always turns out OK) until the rice is cooked and creamy.

Sorry, I know these aren’t really recipes. I can find some if you like - but once he does them once, he’ll discover how truly simple they are and that he can make his own additions/variations, to his delight and your wonderment.

One last thing before I go: butternut squash, either dauphinoise or soup. It’s very good for you. Dauphinoise: cut into thinnish slices, layer in a dish with cream, cheese and black pepper. Cook in medium-hot oven until soft and bubbly on top. Soup: fry onion till soft and sweet. Add cubed squash. Allow squash to start cooking, then add stock. When squash finished cooking, add cream. Yum.

Glad you like the guac idea - it always tempts my jaded appetite! Feel better. :slight_smile:

How about bisque? I’d imagine a seafood bisque is out due to the smell, but maybe a butternut squash or tomato bisque would work.

Try putting some plain (unsweetened live culture) yogurt in your smoothies, or use it as a sub for sour cream, etc. I believe the live cultures help balance out your system. Good luck. I had trouble with acid foods as well. Spaghetti squash makes a good pasta substitute. I didn’t see rice on your sick-of list, try some with chopped veg or something. Good luck.

My go-to food when I’m sick with a cold and lose my appetite is Campbell’s Chunky Chicken Soup. It seems to go down pretty well. Another thing you might try which is completely counter-intuitive, but it was always the only thing I could keep down with a hangover is a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries.

Good luck!

I have some miracle fruit, in the pill for, and am willing to send you a couple to try out … you can shoot me a pm with your address =) they are nicely packaged in pill type bubble packaging.

Milk shakes: Sure; I’m getting at least 1/4 of my daily calories from ice creams and sorbets already, though. Jello: Tastes OK (they have lots available at the cancer clinic where I got treatment) but it’s not very filling. Hummous: without garlic? :eek: … well … I think it might make me cry, but maybe. Husband would probably be willing. Any suggestions for things to eat it on or dip in it? Pita bread’s a little too tough yet.

Good idea. I actually practically make potato bisque out of the mashed potatoes by adding lots of milk. Tomato bisque sounds doable.

Well, I think anything chicken-y may be out for now, but you’ve reminded me that my go-to feeling-punky food is Progresso Lentil soup, which I haven’t tried in several weeks. Time to try again, I think.

You all rock and have reinforced my faith in Doperdom; thank you.

Done, and a thousand thanks!

What have your experiences with the stuff been like? Anyone else feel free to chime in too, please. Anyone have experience specifically with miracle fruit and bitter taste?