25 Soft Food Ideas for Cancer Patients
CaringBridge Staff | 09.14.22
Many medical treatments recommend that cancer patients adopt a “soft diet,” a diet made up of foods that are easy to chew and swallow.
The side effects of treatment may include loss of appetite, mouth sores, nausea and fatigue, which can make it difficult to eat or cook. Similarly, patients who previously underwent surgery or have dental problems/dentures may have similar restrictions.
To offer some inspiration for those with health-related dietary constraints, we compiled 25 soft food ideas for cancer patients. Check out the tasty options:
Pasta dishes are a great options because of the chewable quality of noodles and the ease of incorporating a lot of healthy veggies in the dish. Plus, pasta is just plain yummy.
1. Lasagna roll-ups
2. Mac n’ Cheese
This can be a great way to get your protein in, because ground meat in sauce is often small enough to not pose a chewing problem.
Soft Fruits and Vegetables
Vegetables are crucial for your health due to their high vitamin content. They’re easily softened in the cooking process through steaming, pureeing or baking, so getting your veggies should be no problem. Many fruits are naturally soft, which makes getting your fruit fill easy.
4. Mashed sweet potatoes
Tip: Add cinnamon butter and a little brown sugar to make this veggie extra-tasty.
6. Broccoli steamed with cheese sauce
Hearty and delicious, soup is an obvious winner in the soft food category. Just make sure to avoid or strain soups with large chunks of vegetables or meat.
8. Tomato soup
9. Clam chowder
10. Chicken noodle
11. Butternut Squash
12. Potato leek soup
“I also enjoy Cream of Wheat. I make the regular with milk but you can buy it instant also.”
Getting your protein may seem a bit tricky, but by cooking meat low and slow and focusing on naturally softer sources of protein, you can still enjoy many different foods.
13. Fish without bones (baked, poached, steamed)
14. Slow-cooked chicken with cream sauce
15. Hard-boiled or soft scrambled eggs
“A patient that has trouble with the tumor blocking digestion needs puréed food more for the digestion then the tumor on the pancreas can you purée with herbs.”
Snack away! Many delicious snacks are easy to eat and will keep you full between meals.
Tip: If homemade, cook with cinnamon.
17. Cottage cheese with diced ripe strawberries
20. Hummus with soft pita bread
“When I had my chemo I not only had trouble swallowing but my taste buds became numb. So the problem was that many carbs, meats, even soft ones were not palpable due to bitter metallic taste. Eggs, clear broth, pudding and jello were what I lived on for 2 out of every 3 weeks. Bottom line is that cancer patients on chemo need to find what works best for them.”
Who doesn’t love a sweet treat? Fortunately, there are many desserts that are both delicious and soft enough to enjoy anytime!
21. Tapioca or chocolate pudding
22. Ice cream/sherbet
24. Popsicles (store-bought or homemade)
25. Banana cream pie
For more ideas, check out the American Institute for Cancer Research’s great list of healthy recipes for cancer patients.
“Jello made with vanilla ice cream ( or ice milk or frozen yogurt) instead of cold water – custard or pudding, if milk can be tolerated – mashed potatoes and gravy.”
You read that right. Some cancer patients turn to baby foods, which are usually very nutritious. Baby food is also tempered with many vitamins and minerals, which means it’s both easy to eat and healthy.
Though not a food, water is still important to mention. The effects of cancer treatment can lead to dehydration, and when you’re dehydrated, your body doesn’t function the way it should. Try these tips to help stave off dehydration:
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day (more if you have diarrhea or vomiting)
- Drink other liquids like milk, juice, sports drinks, tea or coffee
- Suck on ice chips
- Record how much you drink to help you keep track
Foods to Avoid With Cancer
When on a soft diet, it can be helpful to stay away from foods that are hard to chew or swallow. These can include:
- Hard starches like crusty bread or hard cereal
- Raw, crunchy fruits and vegetables like celery, carrots and apples
- Dried, tough, or chunks of meat like beef jerky or casseroles with large pieces of meat
- Peanut or almond butter or other sticky or stringy foods which can be hard to swallow
Important: Make sure to always talk to your doctor before changing your diet and/or water intake. He or she will be able to offer guidance that suits your specific health needs.
Tip: To help coordinate tasks like meal sign up, picking up meds, and more, the CaringBridge Planner is an all-inclusive scheduling tool to help you request and receive – support with everyday tasks. It’s all there, with a time and place for each task and space for anyone who wants to help.
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What Are Your Favorite Soft Foods?
We want to hear it from you. What other soft food options do you or your loved ones enjoy the most? Comment below!
This is terrible advice. Cancer is mostly a disease of diet, not genetics and to recommend foods high is processed carbohydrates like pasta is like giving a child a loaded gun. Cancer patients need to be on a high fat, low carb diet. Best is whole foods.
During chemo it was necessary for me to depend on corticosteroids during the drips. Cream of Wheat I learned was the healer of the blood vessels as corticosteroids has been on my chart for years to avoid if possible. I googled what food was good for that break through bleeding during chemo and Cream of Wheat Cinnabon flavor was like supernatural healing salve. Another person in the article said Cream of Wheat!!! It’s so true.
My favorite soft food is mashed potatoes, scrambled egg and cheese, all mixed together. Sounds weird, but consider it a soft version of cheese omelet and hash browns.
Angel food cake is a good cancer food
—❣️Small-bite-sized Watermelon and Avocado together make a good ‘salad’ that I have never gotten tired of, even 8 years later.
—Yams (several) baked til soft; cool; peel. Cut in chunks and puree in blender with enough water to make thick but pour-able. Freeze in many small (1/3 C..?) containers. I add one of these to Cream of Wheat for breakfast, or plain as a snack (w/ cinnamon)
—When texture matters a lot— Egg Noodles (overcooked🙃) are easier than many Durham wheat pastas.
My husband is battling throat cancer currently. One of the high protein meals he has tolerated through the radiation treatments is a mushroom Swiss omelette over corned beef hash.
When my husband was dying of lung cancer during a very hot summer, his doctor told me to blend Boost drinks with ice cream to make him milk shakes. He also enjoyed Ginger Ale or Sprite with Cranberry Juice. This sustained him for his last 2 months.
A patient that has trouble with the tumor blocking digestion needs puréed food more for the digestion then the tumor on the pancreas can you purée with herbs
I’m taking chemo now. I’m having a hard time finding something that tastes good. The nausea is awful.
I had the metallic taste problem with silverware.. someone suggested to go buy a set of the plastic silverware that looked like normal silverware. It helped me. Good luck to you all.
Home-made chicken soup
– Jello made with vanilla ice cream ( or ice milk or frozen yogurt) instead of cold water – custard or pudding, if milk can be tolerated – mashed potatoes and gravy
Good list however, when I had my chemo I not only had trouble swallowing but my taste buds became numb. So the problem was that many carbs, meats, even soft ones were not palpable due to bitter metallic taste. Eggs, clear broth, pudding and jello were what I lived on for 2 out of every 3 weeks. Bottom line is that cancer patients on chemo need to find what works best for them.
Not just for cancer patients! My daughter has a rare genetic disorder and we will eventually have to move her to a soft foods diet. Thanks for these ideas!
I also enjoy Cream of Wheat. I make the regular with milk but you can buy it instant also.
Just found out about Cancer in my husbands stomach. They recommend soft diet.
Hello my mom has Cancer in her lower intestine and she isn’t eating, everything has a bad taste and causing her to throw up I don’t know what to do and what she can eat that want cause her pain in her stomach