8 Tips | Nutrition For Kids With Cancer
Every cell in the body has a system that controls its growth. When certain cells lose that control and grow in a way that the body can no longer regulate, it’s called cancer. The body keeps on forming the new cells but is not able to replace the old ones; the extra cells can form a tumor.
The things that cause cancer in kids are usually not the same ones that cause cancer in adults, such as smoking or exposure to environmental toxins. Childhood cancers can occur suddenly, without early symptoms, but have a better rate of cure.
Nutrition is an important part of the health of all children especially for children getting cancer treatment. Both cancer and its treatment may affect a child’s appetite, tolerance to foods, and the body’s ability to use nutrients.
Eating well during cancer treatment helps children to tolerate treatment and its side effects, heal and recover faster. The diet of a child suffering from cancer should be balanced with:
1. Protein: The body uses protein to grow and repair tissues. Children with cancer break down muscle for the fuel if enough energy and proteins are not provided through diet. This makes it take longer to recover from illness and can lower resistance to infection.
Good sources of protein include fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, dairy products, nuts and nut butters, dried beans, peas,lentils, and soy foods.
2. Carbohydrates: These accounts for the body’s major source of energy needed for physical activity and proper organ function. The calories required depend on a child’s age, size, and level of physical activity. Children being treated for cancer require even more calories for tissue healing
The best sources of carbohydrates includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, bread, potatoes, rice, spaghetti, pasta, cereals, dried beans, corn, peas, and beans.
3. Fats: serve as a rich source of energy for the body. They especially become important in case of children losing weight due to cancer treatment.
To get the necessary fats, the diet should contain fish, nuts, olive oil, and vegetables like avocados. At the same time, meats and greasy, fried foods, oily foods etc. should be avoided.
4. Vitamins and Minerals: Children who eat a balanced diet usually get their daily dose of vitamins and minerals. The side effects of cancer treatment like nausea, vomiting, sores, etc make eating a difficult task. In addition, medicines used to treat cancer interact with nutrients in food. For those children who are unable to consume a balanced diet, a multivitamin can be prescribed. Fruits and vegetables in various forms like desserts, juices, sorbets, and puddings should be include to build up the vitamin and mineral stores.
5. Water: is needed for the body to function. If a child does not take in enough fluids or loses fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, he may become dehydrated. Dehydration can cause severe electrolyte imbalance.
Water can be given in the form of juices, soups, milk etc.
Following are some general tips which can help maintain proper nutrition for children with cancer:
1. Offer smaller, more frequent meals every 2-3 hours. Serve meals on a smaller plate, since a large plate of food can seem like too much to someone with a decreased appetite.
2. Always keep food handy in case the child suddenly gets hungry. A juice or a milkshake, crackers, or fruits can make for a small snack.
3. Try bland foods since spicy, oily and acidic foods can add to the child’s discomfort.
4. Make foods easier to swallow. If swallowing is difficult, try pureed foods, soups, shakes, or smoothies.
5. In case the child is gaining weight, try maintaining weight by giving healthy foods. Bulk up the diet using fruits and vegetables.
6. Serve liquids in between meals, instead of with meals. This way the child doesn’t feel full and has an appetite to eat.
7. Provide healthy snacks. Keep a check on your child’s intake of soda and sweets.
8. Wash raw fruits and vegetables properly before eating. Cook food thoroughly in clean utensils to prevent spread of infections.