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Helping Your Child to Eat During Treatment

This information will help you encourage your child to eat during cancer treatment. For the rest of this resource, our use of the words “you” and “your” refers to you or your child. 

How Cancer Treatment Can Affect Your Child's Eating

The effects of cancer treatment can change your child's food choices, and appetite. Some treatments can cause:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat and mouth
  • Dental problems
  • Changed sense of taste
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain

Our pediatric dietitian can help you plan your child's eating plan both at home and during your inpatient visits. This booklet provides tips that have worked for other children and young adults. If your child is having an eating problem that is not discussed in this booklet, please talk to your healthcare team. You can also include the meal planning guidelines from ChooseMyPlate.gov, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guidance System. These guidelines include:

  • Lean protein food sources
  • Lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • Limiting foods high in fat and sugar

For more guidelines on healthy eating, visit www.choosemyplate.gov. During treatment, these guidelines usually need to be adjusted to meet the calorie needs of your child. You can also visit the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org or the American Institute for Cancer Research at www.aicr.org for more meal planning guidelines during treatment. Your pediatric dietitian can also help you to meet your child's specific needs.

The effects of treatment vary for each patient. Some patients may not have any major eating problems during treatment. Those who do have eating problems usually recover after treatment ends. Ask your doctor how your child's treatment may affect his or her eating.

Multivitamins, Minerals, and Other Natural or Herbal Products During Treatment

You must talk to your healthcare team before giving your child any vitamin or mineral supplements. Large doses of some vitamins may stop your child's treatment from working as it should. To avoid problems, do not take any multivitamins, minerals, or natural herbal products during active treatment, unless your doctor approves.

Patients who eat well during cancer treatment are often able to cope better with their disease and treatment side effects. There is no scientific evidence that dietary supplements or herbal remedies can cure cancer or stop it from coming back. More studies to better understand the role of multivitamins, minerals, and other herbal products in childhood cancer are still needed. A proper diet, exercise, and a healthy weight may help keep your child healthy and reduce some late treatment side effects.

For more information, ask your nurse for the resource Herbal Remedies and Cancer Treatment. You can also visit the Memorial Sloan Kettering's Integrative Medicine Service website, About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products at www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/about-herbs-botanicals-other-products.

How to Manage Symptoms

Loss of appetite

  • Make mealtimes fun.
    • Invite a special friend to join your child at meal or snack time.
    • Include music during meals.
    • Try changing the time, place, and surroundings of meals every now and then. A picnic, even if it is in the house, can make mealtime more fun.
    • Watch a favorite TV show at mealtimes.
  • Encourage normal activities, but don't force them.
  • Avoid forcing, threatening, nagging, or punishing your child if they cannot eat enough food.
  • Let your child eat whenever he/she is hungry.
  • A child does not need to eat just 3 meals a day. Several smaller meals throughout the day may work best for your child. For example, offer a small snack or meal every 2 to 3 hours. Even taking a few bites or handfuls of high-calorie and protein foods every 30 or 60 minutes is helpful. Try offering meals at different times to see what works best for your child.
  • Limit liquids at mealtimes. Liquids are filling and may make your child too full to eat solid foods. Offer plenty of liquids at other times throughout the day.

Sore mouth or throat

  • Try soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow, such as:
    • Yogurt (drinkable and regular)
    • Ice cream
    • Liquids, such as milkshakes, milk, peach, pear, and apricot nectars (most nectars have more calories than regular juices)
    • Bananas, applesauce, and other soft fruits
    • Watermelon or cantaloupe
    • Cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, or macaroni and cheese
    • Custards
    • Puddings
    • Gelatin
    • Scrambled eggs
    • Oatmeal
    • Cream of wheat or other cooked cereals
    • Pureed or mashed vegetables such as peas and carrots
    • Pureed meats
  • Use a straw for drinking liquids.
  • Try serving foods cold or at room temperature. Hot and warm foods can irritate a tender mouth and throat. Always ask your child which temperature they prefer. Sometimes setting up a taste test of foods and drinks at different temperatures can help you decide how to prepare meals.
  • When your child's teeth and gums are sore, the dentist may be able to suggest special teeth-cleaning products.
  • Ask the doctor about anesthetic lozenges and sprays. These can help your child's mouth and throat become less sensitive.
  • Have your child rinse his or her mouth often with water. This helps to remove food and bacteria and promote healing.

Taste changes

  • Offer foods that look and smell good.
  • Red meat, such as beef, may taste unpleasant. If so, replace with chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy products, or fish without a strong odor.
  • Increase the flavor of meat or fish by seasoning with sweet juices, fruits, or acidic dressings. For example:
    • Sweet and sour pork with pineapple
    • Chicken with honey glaze
    • London broil in Italian dressing
  • Season foods with tart flavors. (If your child has a sore mouth or throat, do not use this tip.), such as:
    • Lemon wedges
    • Lemonade
    • Citrus fruits
    • Vinegar
    • Pickled foods
  • Try lemon drops, mints, or gum to chew. These can help reduce bad tastes that linger after eating.
  • Use plastic forks and spoons. Metal utensils may cause a metallic taste on the tongue.
  • Flavor foods with:
    • Onion
    • Garlic
    • Chili powder
    • Basil
    • Oregano
    • Rosemary
    • Tarragon
    • Barbecue sauce
    • Mustard
    • Catsup
    • Mint
  • Add a little sugar to foods. This can help make the food taste better and will decrease salty, bitter, or acidic tastes.
  • Blend fresh fruits into milkshakes, ice cream, or yogurt. If your child is neutropenic (has a low white blood cell count), only use fresh fruits that have very thick skins such as bananas, oranges, or pineapple. You can also use canned or bottled fruits. Your pediatric dietitian can help you with meal planning if your child is neutropenic.
  • Have your child rinse out his or her mouth before eating to help clear the taste buds. Rinse with tea, ginger ale, salted water, or water with baking soda.
  • Serve foods cold. Hot foods have stronger smells and flavors.
  • Eat frozen fruits such as cantaloupe, grapes, oranges, and watermelon.
  • Offer fresh vegetables. They may be more appealing than canned or frozen ones. But remember, if your child has a low white blood cell count, ask your dietitian which fresh fruits and vegetables are safe to offer.
  • If liquids have a bad taste, offer drinks with a straw or use a covered drinking cup to reduce odors.

Dry mouth

  • Try very sweet or tart foods and beverages such as lemonade. These foods may help the mouth produce more saliva. Do not try this if your child also has a tender mouth or sore throat.
  • Offer sugar-free hard candy or popsicles. You can also try frozen yogurt pops or sugar-free chewing gum. This can help produce more saliva. Since some treatments can increase the risk of tooth decay, sugar-free versions may be better than those with sugar.
  • Offer soft and pureed foods. Also, serving food with sauces, gravies, or salad dressings makes them moist and easier to swallow.
  • Keep your child's lips moist with lip balms such as Aquaphor® or A&D ointment.
  • Offer a sip of water every few minutes during meals to help make it easier to swallow and talk.
  • Ask your child's doctor or dentist about products that can help coat and protect the mouth.


  • Try foods such as:
    • Plain toast and crackers
    • Plain or fruit yogurt
    • Sherbet
    • Pretzels
    • Angel food cake
    • Oatmeal
    • Skinless chicken (baked or broiled, not fried)
    • Fruits and vegetables that are soft or bland, such as canned peaches or pears
    • Sips of clear liquids
    • Sugar-free hard candies, popsicles, or ice chips
  • Avoid foods such as:
    • Fatty, greasy, or fried foods (e.g., French fries)
    • Very sweet foods (e.g. rich desserts)
    • Hot and spicy foods
    • Foods with strong odors
  • Offer your child small amounts of food often and slowly (e.g., 6 to 8 small snacks or meals versus 3 large meals).
  • Try to avoid serving meals in a room that is too warm or has cooking odors or smells that may cause your child to feel queasy.
  • Serve foods at room temperature or cooler. Serve beverages cool or chilled. Try freezing favorite beverages in ice cube trays.
  • Do not force favorite foods during nausea attacks. It may cause your child to dislike those foods later on.
  • Let your child rest after meals. Being overly active after eating may slow digestion.
  • If early-morning nausea is a problem, try offering dry toast or crackers while your child remains in bed.
  • Avoid giving food for 1 or 2 hours before treatment if nausea occurs during radiation or chemotherapy.

Nausea and vomiting

Vomiting can follow nausea. It can be brought on by treatment, food odors, gas, or motion. In some children, certain settings, such as the hospital, may cause vomiting. If vomiting is severe or lasts for more 24 hours, contact your doctor. Uncontrolled vomiting can lead to dehydration. In some cases, if you can control nausea, you can prevent vomiting.

If vomiting does occur, try these hints:

  • Do not give your child anything to drink or eat until the vomiting is under control.
  • Once you have controlled vomiting, offer small amounts of clear liquids (water, broth, milk-free ices, gelatin desserts, fruit drinks). When your child is able to keep down clear liquids, try a full liquid diet (strained cereal, pudding, yogurt, milkshakes, and cream soups). Continue offering small amounts as often as your child can keep them down. If your child feels okay on a full liquid diet, gradually work up to a regular diet.
  • Ask your child's doctor about medication to control nausea.

Diarrhea or loose bowel movements

Like uncontrolled vomiting, uncontrolled diarrhea can also lead to dehydration. If diarrhea is continuous, contact your child's doctor.

  •  Try foods that are high in protein and calories but low in fiber, such as:
    • Yogurt without fruit
    • Rice with broth
    • Noodles
    • Farina or cream of wheat
    • Hard-boiled eggs 
    • Ripe bananas
    • Canned or cooked fruit without skins
    • Cottage cheese or cream cheese
    • Chicken or turkey, skinned; tender or ground beef; fish that is baked or broiled (not fried)
  • Until the diarrhea is better controlled, avoid:
    • Greasy, fatty or fried foods
    • Raw vegetables and fruits
    • High-fiber vegetables, such as broccoli, corn, beans, cabbage, and cauliflower
    • Strong spices such as hot pepper, curry, and Cajun spice mix
    • High-sugar foods such as fruit-flavored gelatin desserts
    • Caffeine-containing beverages, such as soda or cocoa
    • Carbonated beverages
  • Offer small amounts of foods and liquids throughout the day instead of 3 large meals.
  • Offer liquids at room temperature. Avoid serving very hot or cold foods.
  • Serve solid foods and liquids that contain sodium (salt) and potassium. These minerals are often lost during diarrhea. Bouillon or fat-free broths are high in sodium. Foods high in potassium include bananas, boiled or mashed potatoes, peaches, and apricots.


To control constipation, offer a hot drink about 30 minutes before your child's usual bowel pattern. It may be best to do this in the morning and the hour after meals. Offer high-fiber foods along with plenty of liquids. Increasing fiber without drinking enough fluids can make constipation worse.

  • High-fiber foods include:
    • Whole-grain breads and cereals
    • Brown rice
    • Dried fruits, such as raisins and prunes
    • Raw fruits and vegetables, such as cauliflower, potatoes with skin, peas, apples, pears, oranges, and berries. When your child has a low white blood cell count, avoid certain thin skin fruits. Your pediatric dietitian can give you a list with the fruits allowed during this time.
  • Give plenty of liquids. Increasing fiber without drinking enough liquids can make constipation worse.
  • Keep the skins on vegetables and fruits, whether raw or cooked, to increase the amount of fiber.
  • Add wheat bran to foods such as casseroles and homemade breads.
  • When possible, encourage your child to do exercise. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about the amount and type of exercise that is right for your child.

Weight gain

If your child is on certain drugs such as prednisone or dexamethasone, the side effects may include an increase in appetite and weight gain.

  • Talk to your doctor about the weight gain. He or she can help to explain why it is happening.
  • Do not put your child on a weight loss diet unless your doctor recommends it.
  • If your child has a big appetite, your dietitian can help you plan healthy meals and snacks to control the increase in appetite.

Dental problems

Certain cancer treatments including radiation to the head or neck area and aggressive chemotherapy in preparation for transplants can cause tooth decay. Frequent snacking and sugary foods can also affect your child's teeth. Encourage brushing after snacks and meals. Also, remember to:

  • Visit the dentist regularly.
  • Use soft toothbrushes, especially when your child's gum or teeth are sensitive.
  • Make sure your child rinses his or her mouth with warm water.
  • Limit chewy candy

Weight loss

When your child is not eating his or her usual amounts of foods and drinks, make every bite count. Your pediatric dietitian and the medical team may recommend that you offer high-calorie and high-protein foods. Proteins help to keep your child's body strong and help the body it to rebuild itself. High-calorie foods help your child to keep a healthy weight.

How to Increase Calories

All of the calorie counts in this section are estimated. Different brands may have different calorie counts.

  • If your child has a low white blood cell count, please talk to the dietitian before offering fresh fruit and raw vegetables.
  • To prevent choking, infants and children under 4 years old should always be supervised during mealtimes. This is most important when offering nuts, popcorn, fruit chunks, grapes, chunks of peanut butter, hard cheese cubes, cubed meat, hot dogs, and other small food items.

Butter and margarine (33 calories in a teaspoon)

  • Add to soups, mashed and baked potatoes, hot cereals, grits, rice, noodles, and cooked vegetables.
  • Stir into creamy soups, sauces, and gravies.
  • Combine with herbs and seasonings and spread on cooked meats, hamburgers, and fish and egg dishes.
  • Use melted butter or margarine as a dip for seafood, such as shrimp, scallops, crab, and lobster.

Whipped cream (77 calories in a teaspoon)

  • Use sweetened on hot chocolate, desserts, gelatin, puddings, fruits, pancakes, and waffles.

Milk and cream

Whole milk (150 calories in 8 ounces)
Cream (25 calories in a tablespoon)
  • Fold unsweetened into mashed potatoes or vegetable purees.
  • Use in cream soups, sauces, egg dishes, batters, puddings, and custards.
  • Put on hot or cold cereal.
  • Mix with noodles, pasta, rice, and mashed potatoes.
  • Pour on chicken and fish while baking.
  • Use as a binder in hamburgers, meatloaf, and croquettes.
  • Use whole milk instead of low-fat milk.
  • Use cream instead of milk in recipes.
  • Make hot chocolate with cream and add marshmallows

Cheeses (100 calories in an ounce)

  • Melt on top of casseroles, potatoes, and vegetables.
  • Add to omelets.
  • Add to sandwiches.
  • Spread on breads, muffins, fruit slices, and crackers.
  • Add to vegetables.
  • Add extra to pizza.
  • Try cheese sticks.

Cream cheese (50 calories in a tablespoon)

  • Roll into balls and coat with chopped nuts, wheat germ, or granola.

Sour cream (26 calories in a tablespoon)

  • Add to creamy soups, baked potatoes, macaroni and cheese, vegetables, sauces, salad dressings, stews, baked meat, and fish.
  • Use as a topping for cakes, fruit, gelatin desserts, breads, and muffins.
  • Use as a dip for fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Scoop onto fresh fruit, add brown sugar, and chill.

Salad dressings and mayonnaise (100 calories in a tablespoon)

  • Use as a spread on sandwiches.
  • Combine with meat, fish, and egg or vegetable salads.
  • Use as a binder in croquettes.

Honey (60 calories in a tablespoon)

Jam (60 calories in a tablespoon)

Sugar (48 calories in a tablespoon)

  • Add to bread, cereal, milk drinks, and fruit and yogurt desserts.
  • Use as a glaze for meats, such as chicken.

Granola (180 calories in 4 ounces)

  • Use in cookie, muffin, and bread batter, and parfaits.
  • Sprinkle on vegetables, yogurt, ice cream, pudding, custard, and fruit.
  • Layer with fruits and bake.
  • Mix with dry fruits and nuts for a snack.
  • Substitute for bread or rice in pudding recipes.

Dried fruits (100 calories in 1 or 2 ounces)
(raisins, prunes, apricots, dates, figs)

  • Try cooking dried fruits; serve for breakfast in warm cereals or as a dessert or snack.
  • Add to muffins, cookies, breads, cakes, rice and grain dishes, cereals, puddings, and stuffing.
  • Bake in pies and turnovers.
  • Combine with cooked vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, and acorn and butternut squash.
  • Combine with nuts or granola for snacks.

Premium ice cream (about 150 to 270 calories in 4 ounces)

Yogurt (about 150 calories in 8 ounces)

Frozen yogurt (about 117 calories in 4 ounces)

  • Add to carbonated beverages, such as ginger ale or cola.
  • Add to milk drinks, such as milkshakes.
  • Add to cereal, fruit, gelatin desserts, and pies. Blend or whip with soft or cooked fruits.
  • Sandwich ice cream or frozen yogurt between cake slices, cookies, or graham crackers.
  • Make breakfast drinks with fruit and bananas.

Eggs (80 calories in each egg)

  • Add chopped, hard-boiled eggs to salads and dressings, vegetables, casseroles, and creamed meats.
  • Add extra eggs or egg whites to quiches and to pancake and French toast batter.
  • Add extra egg whites to scrambled eggs and omelets.
  • Make custard with eggs, milk, and sugar.
  • Add extra hard-boiled yolks to deviled-egg filling and sandwich spreads.
  • Do not use raw or undercooked eggs. They may carry harmful bacteria. Undercooked foods can make your child ill, especially when their immunity is weakened during treatment.

Nuts, seeds, and wheat germ (about 25 calories in a tablespoon)

  • To prevent choking, always supervise infants and children during mealtimes.
  • Add to casseroles, breads, muffins, pancakes, cookies, and waffles.
  • Sprinkle on fruit, cereal, ice cream, yogurt, vegetables, salads, and toast as a crunchy topping; use in place of bread crumbs.
  • Blend with parsley or spinach, herbs, and cream for a noodle, pasta, or vegetable sauce.
  • Roll banana in chopped nuts.

Peanut butter (95 calories in a tablespoon)

  • Spread on sandwiches, toast, muffins, crackers, waffles, pancakes, and fruit slices.
  • Use as a dip for raw vegetables, such as carrots, cauliflower, and celery. (Do not use these raw vegetables if your child is neutropenic.)
  • Blend with milk drinks and beverages.
  • Swirl in soft ice cream and yogurt.

Meat (about 120 to 200 calories in 3 ounces)

Fish (about 100 to 175 calories in 3 ounces)

  • Add chopped, cooked meat or fish to vegetables, salads, casseroles, soups, and sauces.
  • For added protein and a tasty snack, wrap cooked meat or fish into homemade or store bought precooked biscuit dough or piecrust and bake.
  • Use in omelets, quiches, sandwich fillings, and chicken and turkey stuffing.
  • Add to stuffed baked potatoes.

Beans/legumes (about 100 to 200 calories in 8 ounces)

  • Cook and use peas, legumes, beans, and tofu in soups.
  • Add to casseroles, pastas, and grain dishes that contain cheese or meat.
  • Mash cooked beans with cheese and milk.

Oral Nutritional Supplements

Your child may not be able to get enough calories and protein from his or her diet alone. If not, your pediatric dietitian, nurse, or doctor may suggest that you use oral nutritional supplements. Supplements are available as liquids, powders, or oils. Some supplements can be added to foods, while others may be eaten alone to add extra calories and protein to your child's diet. Most supplements are lactose free, which means that your child can have them, even if he or she has trouble digesting milk products.

MSKCC is not endorsing any of the products listed below. All supplements are kosher, except Super Soluble Duocal®.





  • Liquid calorie and protein booster
  • 300 calories and 7 grams of protein in each 1.5-ounce packet
  • Unflavored
  • Contains additional zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E


  • Powdered protein booster
  • 25 calories and 6 grams of protein in each scoop
  • Unflavored
  • Contains additional potassium, calcium, salt, and phosphorous

Boost Kid Essentials®

  • Milk-based, flavored, sweetened liquid
  • Available in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors
  • 250 calories and 7 grams of protein in each 8-ounce serving
  • Some versions are available with a higher calorie and fiber content
  • Some versions contain probiotics (good bacteria). Speak to your doctor before giving probiotics to your child
Carnation Instant Breakfast® 
  • Milk-based, flavored, sweetened powder that can be mixed with milk or water
  • Available in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry flavors
  • Also available in premixed, ready-to-drink containers
  • Some versions are sugar-free
  • Available with and without lactose
  • Some versions come with extra fiber, more calories, and with extra egg protein


  • Milk-based, flavored, sweetened liquid
  • Available in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, banana, eggnog, coconut, and dulce de leche (milk caramel) flavors
  • 360 calories and 15 grams of protein in each 12-ounce serving
  • Only available at select retail stores in New York and Florida


  • Milk-based, flavored, sweetened liquid
  • Available in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, banana, and other flavors
  • 237 calories and 7 grams of protein in each 8-ounce serving
  • Lactose-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Available with or without fiber
  • Refrigerate after opening


  • Unflavored, powdered calorie booster
  • Can be mixed in foods and drinks
  • 23 calories in each tablespoon
  • Lactose-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Provides no fat or protein

Resource Breeze®

  • Fruit drink available in peach, orange, and wild berry flavors
  • 250 calories and 9 grams of protein in each 8-ounce serving
  • Lactose-free
  • Fat-free
  • Refrigerate after opening


  • Powdered, high-calorie shake
  • Available in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors
  • 600 calories and 12 grams of protein when mixed with whole milk
  • Available in lactose-free and sugar-free versions

Super Soluble Duocal®

  • Unflavored, powdered calorie and fat booster for children ages 1 year or older
  • Can be mixed in foods and drinks
  • 25 calories in each scoop
  • Use only as directed by your dietitian or doctor
  • After opening, use within 1 month

Vital Jr® (Abbott)

  • Milk-based, flavored, sweetened liquid
  • Available in vanilla and strawberry flavors
  • 237 calories and 7 grams of protein in each 8-ounce serving
  • Made especially for children with stomach and digestion problems, including nausea and diarrhea

Contact information for purchasing oral nutritional supplements

Abbott Nutrition
1-800-422- ASK2 (2752)
1-800-365-7354 (General)
1-800-636-2283 (Duocal)
AxcanPharma Inc.

Nutritious Snack Ideas

  • Baked apples
  • Bread, muffins, and crackers
  • Buttered popcorn
  • Cakes and cookies made with whole grains
  • Fresh fruit chunks (canned or dried fruit may also be used)
  • Fruits, nuts, wheat germ, or granola
  • Cereal
  • Cheese cubes
  • Cheese on breads and crackers
  • Chicken or fish spreads on crackers, breads, or fruits
  • Cheesecake
  • Chocolate milk
  • Corn muffins topped with butter
  • Crackers
  • Creamy soups
  • Dips made with cheese, beans, or sour cream
  • Gelatin salads and desserts
  • Granola on yogurt, ice cream puddings, hot cereal, pancakes, or canned fruit
  • Guacamole on breads, crackers, and chips
  • Milkshakes or “instant breakfast” drinks
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Pita bread and hummus
  • Pizza
  • Puddings and custards
  • Mini sandwiches
  • Raw vegetables and dip
  • Whole or 2% milk
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Yogurt and fruit shakes

Smoothie recipes 

For the following recipes, put the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth.

Breakfast Smoothie

½ cup of milk
½ apple (peeled)
½ cup of granola
¼ cup of plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt
½ medium banana
1 tablespoon of honey
3 drops of vanilla extract
4 cubes of ice

Nutritional content: 560 calories, 27 grams protein

Banana Smoothie (2 servings)

½ cup of milk
1 ½ medium bananas
½ cup of plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons of honey
3 drops of vanilla extract
4 cubes of ice
Nutritional content:405 calories, 10 grams protein


Caribbean Craze Smoothie (2 servings)

½ cup of coconut milk
6 cherries (pitted)
¼ cup of pineapple (canned)
¼ cup of orange juice
½ cup of plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon of honey
3 drops of vanilla extract
4 cubes of ice
Nutritional content: 465 calories, 8 grams protein


Strawberry Shortcake (2 servings)

1 cup of milk
4 tablespoons of lady fingers or angel food cake
6 strawberries
1 tablespoon of sour cream
1 scoop of vanilla ice cream
Nutritional content: 460 calories, 13 grams protein


S'mores Smoothie (2 servings)

½ cup of coconut milk
1 medium banana
4 graham crackers
½ cup pf plain, whole-milk Greek Yogurt
2 tespoons of chocolate sauce
3 drops of vanilla extract
2 teapoons of honey
4 cups of ice
Nutitional content: 720 calories, 16 grams protein


Nutty Nutella Smoothie (2 servings)

½ cup of coconut milk
1 medium banana
½ cup of frozen yogurt
4 cubes of ice
Nutritional content: 580 calories, 9 grams protein

Frequently Asked Questions

When our patients, parents, and families speak, we listen. We try to provide the most accurate information as supported by scientific evidence. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions by our patients and families.

My child is neutropenic and my doctor says he or she should follow the low-microbial diet. What can my child eat?

Your dietitian or nurse will give you guidelines on how to follow a low-microbial diet.

Can my child have sugar?

Yes. There is not enough scientific evidence to prove that avoiding sugar will prevent cancer growth or reoccurrence. Cancer patients often have a hard time meeting calorie needs, so consuming some sugar can help to provide additional calories.

Is there anything my child can eat to help their white blood cell counts increase?

There are no supplements or specific foods known to increase white blood cell counts. Using iron supplements to improve blood cell counts is sometimes confused with low white blood cell counts. Iron supplements are used to increase red blood cells. Speak with your child's doctor for more guidance.

Is there anything my child can eat to help with his or her immune system?

The best way to increase immunity is to eat a healthy diet with a variety of foods.

What foods should my child avoid while on chemotherapy?

There are specific guidelines for some chemotherapy drugs. Your doctor can give your specific information based on the treatment. Otherwise, offer a variety of foods to keep your child as healthy as possible during treatment.

Why do my child's potassium and magnesium levels sometimes drop during treatment?

Some chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, may cause a loss of magnesium and potassium in the urine. Normal levels of magnesium are needed to maintain the function of the heart and nervous system. The body regulates magnesium by shifting it into and out of cells. A shift of potassium into the cells causes a low level of magnesium.

Resources for Patients and Caregivers

Ask your doctor or nurse for the MSKCC patient and caregiver education resource, Eating Well During and After Your Cancer Treatment.


American Cancer Society (ACS)
(800) ACS-2345
American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition
(800) 727-4567
Cancer Care
(800) 813-HOPE
American Institute for Cancer Research
(800) 843-8114
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
(800) 4-CANCER
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)
(215) 690-0300
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS)
(301) 435-2920



American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Nutrition for Cancer Patients. 2nd ed, Bloch A. American Cancer Society, 2010.

The American Cancer Society's Healthy Eating Cookbook: a Celebration of Food, Friends, and Healthy Living. 3rd ed, Atlanta, Ga: The American Cancer Society, 2005.

The Cancer Survival Cookbook: 200 Quick & Easy Recipes With Helpful Eating Hints. Weihofen DL, Marino C. 2002.

Eating Well, Staying Well During and After Cancer. Bloch A, Cassileth BR, Holmes MD, Thomas CA eds,: Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2004.

Easy-to-Swallow, Easy-to Chew Cookbook: Over 150 Tasty and Nutritious Recipes for People Who Have Difficulty Swallowing. Weihofen DL, Robbins J, Sullivan PA. 2002.

The I Can't Chew Cookbook: Delicious Soft Food Recipes for People With Chewing, Swallowing, and Dry Mouth Disorders. Wilson JR. 2003