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Has your taste for foods changed? Cancer and its therapy can cause a loss or change in taste. Antibiotics, painkillers and other drugs can also change the taste of foods. Some foods tend to taste bad - especially red meat, coffee and sweets. However, the ability to taste foods usually returns after treatment. The following tips may help you to enjoy your foods.
- Try a variety of foods.
- Don’t give up on foods. What tastes off today may taste normal next week.
- If red meat taste bitter, you can:
- marinate it before cooking using soy sauce, fruit juice, wine, Italian dressing or sweet and sour sauce.
- substitute chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, pudding, ham, custards, peanut butter, milkshakes, yogurt, cheese, or beans for red meats.
- use tart foods such as oranges or lemonade to enhance the flavors of foods. Orange juice, pickles, lemonade, vinegar, and lemon juice can be used as a seasoning.
- To overcome a metallic taste, try fruit-flavored sourballs or other tart foods.
- Add bacon bits, sliced almonds, ham strips, or onions to foods for added flavor.
- Use spices and condiments to accent or flavor bland foods.
- Foods will taste better when chilled or frozen. Try cold meals such as tuna, ham, egg, or pasta salad instead of hot meals.
- Drink your nutritional supplement cold, in a covered cup or through a straw.
Food Safety Practices/General Guidelines
Wash hands with warm soapy water before and after preparing food and before eating.
Keep food-preparation surfaces (counters, sink, etc.) and utensils clean.
Have a cutting board for raw meat, one for cooked meats, and another for fruits and vegetables (or if you have only one, wash and sanitize between each use)
Use paper towels for drying. If using kitchen towels, wash daily.
Replace sponges at least weekly and wash daily with bleach solution or in the dishwasher.
To wash food preparation areas and equipment use 1 part bleach to 10 parts water (use on appliances, sponges, cutting boards, etc.) after soap and water washing.
Keep refrigerator temperature between 34°F and 40°F. To be sure, place a thermometer on the back shelf in the fridge and check it often.
Keep freezer temperature below 5°F.
Throw out all prepared foods after 72 hours (three days) in the refrigerator that have been opened, used, or are leftover.
Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking in small shallow containers. Discard leftovers if they are at room temperature for 2 or more hours.
Cook poultry to 180°F and all other foods to at least 165°F, including leftovers. Meat should be cooked well done, with no pink in the center. Use a food thermometer, available in most grocery stores, to check food temperatures.
Bring leftover soups, sauces, and gravies to a rolling boil before serving.
Always check the “sell by” and “use by” dates. Do not purchase or use any products that are out of date.
Avoid foods from self-serve, bulk containers.
Avoid salad bars, delis, buffets.
What Are My Food Options?
Foods To Avoid
Foods To Choose
Raw and undercooked eggs and foods containing them, such as French toast, omelettes, puddings, salad dressings, and egg nog
Pasteurized eggs, hard boiled eggs, thoroughly cooked eggs and foods containing eggs.
Unpasteurized dairy products such as milk, cheese, cream, butter, and yogurt
Pasteurized dairy products
Unpasteurized or fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices
Raw or undercooked meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, and sushi
All fully cooked meats, poultry,
fish, and shellfish
Vegetable sprouts such as alfalfa and other seed sprouts
All to be avoided
All fresh, raw berries
Cooked or canned berries
Smooth raw fruits that are unwashed, not peeled or not cooked
Fruits washed under running water, peeled, or cooked
Unwashed raw vegetables
Vegetables washed under running water, peeled, or cooked
Raw or undercooked tofu
Cooked, chopped tofu that has been boiled for 5 minutes or more in water or broth
Raw or unpasteurized honey
Deli meats, processed meats, and hot dogs that have not been cooked until steaming hot
Deli meats, processed meats, and hot dogs cooked until steaming hot
Raw, uncooked grain products
Cooked grain products such as bread, ready-to-eat cold cereal, cooked cereal, cooked pasta and rice, pretzels, and potato chips
Raw, undercooked brewers yeast
AVOID ALL contact with raw yeast
Cooked breads, rolls, pizza crust and other dough that is fully cooked
Outdated or moldy food
Foods that have not passed “use by” date and have no signs of mold
Unpasteurized beer such as home-brewed and certain microbrewery beer
Pasteurized beer such as bottled, canned, or draft beer
Unroasted raw nuts and roasted
nuts with shells on
Roasted nuts such as those packaged in jars, cans, and plastic
Unpastuerized soft and blue vein cheese such as bleu cheese, brie, camembert, feta, etc.
Pasteurized hard cheeses, American cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta
Well water and spring water (unless tested yearly and found safe)
Cold brewed tea made with warm or cold water sun tea, fresh apple cider, and homemade lemonade,
Tap water, commercial bottled, distilled, natural waters,
All canned, bottled, and powdered beverages
Instant and brewed coffee, tea (cold brewed tea made with boiling water), and brewed herbal tea using packaged tea bags
Commercial nutritional supplements, such as Ensure and BOOST
*Pasteurized Egg Nog only
*Avoid all herbal supplements due to possible contamination.
References and Resources for more information:
All information provided in these websites is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice for your specific condition.
American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org
Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov
USDA – United States Department of Agriculture: www.usda.gov
Boost, Boost Plus, Boost Breeze
Mead Johnson Nutritionals: 1-800-247-7893
Web site: www.boost.com
Cancer Fund of America*: 1-800-578-5284
Web site: www.cfoa.com
*This agency has some FREE products for people who have cancer, including Boost. Call or visit them online to learn about other products they offer.
Ensure, Ensure Plus, Enlive
Other Nutritional Product Suppliers
Johns Hopkins Pharmaquip: 1-800-288-2838
Major Pharmacies and Grocery Stores
Many pharmacies will special order supplements for you. Speak to the Pharmacist for these items.
Other Nutritional Products
There are a variety of other nutritional supplements that are available on the market. When looking at these items keep in mind that they should not provide more than 100% of vitamins and minerals, and should be free of herbal additives.
For more information, please call the Oncology Nutrition Department at
To read more about Nutrition and other important tips on managing your health, please visit our online patient resource site.