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The Role of nutrition in pediatric cancer patients




After her son was diagnosed with cancer at age 11, Danielle Cook, MS, launched herself into better understanding which foods might best help him during treatment and then, as a cancer survivor, for life beyond. Today she runs Happily hungry, a nutrition program for young cancer patients, adolescent cancer survivors, their parents, family, and caregivers. She also published a book with Smart Recipes for Kids with cancer.

As parents, we often get frustrated and confused about what kind of food we need to give to our children and during therapy, it becomes a challenge with all the side effects. Danielle a mom, chef, author, and parent of a cancer survivor, has been demonstrating, educating and advocating the benefits of seasonal whole foods in battling childhood illness for more than 12 years.

Here are some of her recommendations in a nutshell:

  • Helpful foods for the common side effect of cancer treatments

Healing foods

Mouth Sores
·       Ginger


·       Lemon, lime

·       Peppermint

·       Plain yogurt

·       Rice

·       Broths


·       Cucumber

·       Avocado

·       Oatmeal

·       Watermelon

·       Applesauce


·       Rice

·       Potatoes

·       Bananas

·       Fermented beverages

·       Fruits and vegetables

·       Legumes

·   Whole grains

·       Dried fruits

·       Hydration

  • Increase intake of Vitamin C helps with fewer delays in therapy, less toxicity, shorter hospital stays
  • Increased intake of Vitamin E and C have fewer infections.
  • Fast food can be replaced with real food smoothies, ingredients that can help upset stomachs, food can help and heal and it’s critical to help the child to overcome the diseases.
  • Patients with Neutropenia (low number of white blood cells) required a Neutropenic diet that limits certain foods to limit the exposure of bacteria, no raw and uncooked fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • For a gut healing process supplements like L- glutamine, Slippery Elm, Marshmallow root, Lemon balm and Aloe can be very healing and probiotics are crucial.
  • Increased fiber to improve bowel function.
  • Milk thistle to support liver function.
  • Antioxidants foods like vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc.
  • Detoxification and rebuilding for immunity of survivors has to be very gentle and gradual process, high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods (including flavonoids).
  • Add mood building food like whole grains, walnuts and complex carbs.
  • Eliminating caffeine and add relaxing teas.

Each survivor has its own unique need so there is no specific recommendation for everyone. She recommends creating a program for each patient with accessible and affordable ingredients, texture appealing to kids, recipes who are easy to follow and that satisfice the whole family with the purpose to empower parents and child to make better food choices and provide options to food challenges during cancer treatments.

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