Let's get cooking

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By Lura Lumsden, health education specialist, Patient Education Office - The Learning Center

veggiesCancerwise.jpgGrowing up in a small town in Virginia, I always had a huge vegetable garden, so eating healthy was easy. When I went to college, my diet changed. With my main focus on studying, I rarely cooked and often opted for quick meals that weren't always the healthiest option.

Since I began working at MD Anderson in The Learning Center, I've tried to live a healthier lifestyle. Good nutrition has become a priority, and I pay close attention to what my family eats. To ensure that we eat more fruits and vegetables, I prep all of the produce when I get home from the grocery store. I wash, cut and store it in the fridge so that I can grab and go.

What we offer
The Learning Center offers free information at all levels -- from very basic materials all the way to physician-level resources.

Although many of the cookbooks in The Learning Center are cancer-specific, the recipes are for anyone who wants to eat healthier.

Our Nutrition Pathfinder is a condensed list of reliable resources including books, cookbooks, videos, brochures and periodicals. Patients and family members are encouraged to use our email reference service to send us their questions.
Contact us at

Nutrition for patients
Proper nutrition is important for people who have cancer. The disease and treatment can cause changes in appetite. If you are experiencing changes in appetite or difficulty eating you should speak with a dietitian. At MD Anderson, every patient has access to a dietitian, so ask your doctor for a referral.

One popular book available for checkout in The Learning Center is "Eating Well Through Cancer: Easy Recipes and Recommendations During and After Cancer Treatment," by Holly Clegg and Gerald Miletello, M.D. Offering more than 200 recipes, the book features an explanation for common cancer treatment side effects and also provides grocery lists and menus. Side effects addressed in the book include neutropenia, diarrhea, sore mouth and throat, constipation and weight management.

After checking out this book several times, I finally bought my own copy. One recipe that I frequently cook is the "Oven 'Fried' Parmesan Chicken." It's quick, easy and a healthier alternative to traditional fried chicken. It also pairs well with any side dish, especially steamed vegetables.

waterbottleCancerwise.jpgQuick tips

Recipe substitutions

I refer to The Learning Center's nutrition resources for quick recipe tips. For example, some cookbooks suggest substitutions to replace less healthy ingredients, like using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise or sour cream. Below is one of my go-to favorites. It's especially delicious with sliced cucumber.

Greek yogurt veggie dip
  • 16-20-ounce container, fat-free, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 packet of your favorite ranch dip seasoning
  1. Mix the yogurt and ranch dip together.
  2. Serve chilled with your favorite cut vegetables.
The freezer is your friend
Plan your meals ahead of scheduled treatment. Cook in advance and freeze small portions for easy meals when you're feeling tired.

Set water goals

During treatment, set water goals for yourself. Use a permanent marker to mark your goals on the water bottle so that you drink throughout the day.

The Learning Center

To learn more, I welcome you to visit The Learning Center.
Main Building, Floor 4, near Elevator A, R4.1100
Mays Clinic, Floor 2, near The Tree Sculpture, ACB2.1120
Jesse H. Jones Rotary House, Floor 1, RH1.103

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