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Tips on Dealing with Taste Change

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Why do taste changes happen?

Many people will experience taste changes with cancer and cancer treatment. These changes can vary with the type of treatment you are receiving and with each person. Taste changes can also vary from week to week. The following tips may make managing taste changes easier.

  • Try a variety of flavors, temperatures and textures. Don’t give up on foods. What tastes “off” today may taste normal next week.
  • Eat foods that taste good. Keep a list of these things.
  • Avoid foods that taste bad. Try to find substitutes so you are still able to maintain good nutrition.

What can I do about odors affecting my taste?

Room temperature or cold foods may taste best. These include:

  • Tuna salad
  • Egg salad
  • Chicken salad
  • Pasta salad
  • Deviled eggs
  • Ice cream
  • Milkshakes
  • Pudding or custard
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Use a fan while cooking.
  • Drink from cups that have a lid.
  • Keep pots covered.
  • Use a microwave to cook foods.
  • Open a kitchen window.
  • Use prepared foods or take-out.

What should I eat if foods taste bitter?

Room temperature or cold foods may taste best.
Try mild tasting foods. These include:

  • Vanilla pudding
  • Perogies
  • Hot cereal
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Plain crackers
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Custard
  • Plain noodles

What should I eat if foods taste like metal?

*Room temperature or cold foods may taste best.
*Substitute other protein foods for red meats. These include:

  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Milkshakes
  • Quiche
  • Cottage cheese
  • Hummus
  • Deviled eggs or egg salad
  • Chicken or turkey
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Custard or pudding
  • Try tart flavored foods, beverages or candies.
  • Marinate meat or poultry using fruit juices, Italian dressing, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce, wine or barbecue sauce.
  • Use plastic utensils instead of stainless steel.
  • Cook with glass cookware instead of metal.
  • Try fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables rather than canned.

Can I do anything if foods have no flavor?

  • Try sour or tart foods. These may stimulate taste.
  • Use barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup, soy sauce to add flavor.
  • Add herbs, spices, onion, garlic, or bacon for extra flavor.

Foods with strong flavors may be appealing. These include:

  • Pizza
  • Spaghetti
  • Marinated meats or meats with sauces
  • Salsa
  • Pickles or olives

*Try fruit or coffee flavored shakes

What can I do if foods taste salty?

  • *Try low sodium versions of foods.
  • Add a small amount of sugar to foods such as soups, juices, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, tomato sauce, casseroles, or gravy to help decrease the salty taste.

What can I do if foods taste too sweet?

  • Dilute juices, milkshakes or supplements by adding water, soda water, milk or ice to them.
  • Add a small amount of salt to foods such as puddings, ice cream or milkshakes to help decrease the sweet taste.
  • Tart flavored foods and beverages may be appealing.

    Other Resources
    If you would like more information, or to talk to a dietitian, please call 410-955-8152.
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