Revitalising Christmas Dining for Chemo Patients



The Christmas season is a time of joy, festivities, and indulging in delicious meals. However, for people undergoing cancer treatment, the side-effects can cast a shadow over celebrations. While many are familiar with the visible impact of cancer treatment, such as hair loss, the hidden side effect of a dulled sense of taste and flavour can significantly affect a patient's enjoyment of food, leading to diminished appetite and potential malnutrition.

Navigating Christmas with cancer can be tricky. As the Christmas season approaches, the stress for cancer patients intensifies as they worry about the impact of taste changes and other side-effects on their Christmas dining experience. As a cancer survivor, I understand this struggle firsthand. Some side effects are genuine "taste bud killers," making it challenging for patients to find joy in festive meals.

Addressing the sensory limitations induced by chemotherapy is crucial to reigniting patients' interest and joy in food. To combat taste and flavour challenges, adopt an innovative approach that centres on creating sensory-driven meals, providing a stimulating and satisfying dining experience for chemo patients.

Tips for Sensory-Driven Meals:

1. Diverse Textures: Our mouthes are a sensory wonderland. Incorporate a diverse range of textures, including crispy, crunchy, smooth, and chewy elements in meals.

2. Trigeminal Nerve Activation: Incorporate elements like chilli, wasabi, eucalyptus, and mint to activate the trigeminal nerve beneath the tongue, providing a simultaneous sensation of warmth and coolness.

3. Umami-Rich Ingredients: Enhance the depth and complexity of flavours by including umami-rich ingredients such as miso, soy, shiitake, parmesan cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes.

4. Aromatic Components: Smell and aroma play a remarkable role in our perception of flavour. Including ingredients with top notes like citrus, middle notes like herbs, and base notes like spices can be enough to get some flavour in the mouth.

5. Layering and Stacking: Create harmonious combinations of flavours, temperatures, textures, and colours by layering or stacking different ingredients in a dish.

6. Sound Enhancement: The sound of food can enhance the sensory pleasure of eating. It’s like music for your taste buds. This can include the sound of food cooking or the sound of different textures in the mouth when chewing.

Beyond addressing nutritional needs, there is a holistic impact of food on overall well-being. Fostering a positive and enjoyable relationship with food during challenging times contributes to the mental and emotional resilience of patients. To support this, we have curated an entire Christmas menu specifically designed for people struggling with taste loss and other common chemotherapy side effects.

This Christmas, let's embrace the spirit of giving by transforming the dining experience of chemo patients. By incorporating sensory-driven elements into meals, we can bring back the joy of eating and contribute to the overall well-being of those facing taste and flavour challenges during the festive season.

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  • Alexandra Stewart
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