Listen carefully, I wish someone had given me these tips.
I take my food SERIOUSLY.
I think this came from the St.Pierre side of the gene pool.
My father has told me stories of first come, first serve, winner-takes-all, survival-of-the-fittest riots at the dinner table during childhood. . . . but he did have twelve brothers and sisters.
During the period immediately following my first transplant, Heather was living in our house to help care for me.
She was also pregnant.
We both felt it was more important that we were the ones to get the best food in the house and gain the most weight.
This culminated into 4 am fridge raids. We would both wake up at some period during the night (usually around 4 am. Sometimes I would see her coming down or going up the stairs as I was coming out of my room), and eat bowls of honey nut cheerios.
This is our mutual comfort food.
We’d come down for our midnight snacks in fear that we would be the one to wake up in the morning with NO CHEERIOS. This could possibly send our day into a whirlwind of terrible happenings.
We could go through four boxes a week.
This has apparently trickled down to Xander, who can all ready eat 15 chicken nuggets in a sitting at McDonalds, and who informed me all ready that when he gets older, he is not going to “grow his own food.”
He is going to “rip up all the vegetable plants and spend all his money on food.”
As you may imagine with this information, preparing food for chemotherapy, or any period when I know I’m going to be significantly disabled, is key.
It is important to understand how you may feel after your treatments and prepare your fridge accordingly.
Uh-oh, who has the crystal ball to know how you may feel when you start chemotherapy treatments to help you prepare?
I DO! You came to the right place. First things first, maybe you should grab a 3-ring binder and decide to keep this information in ONE PLACE. Organization is key when confronting chemo. We’re just starting with food here, but there is more, oh so much more.
1. START WITH A LIST
Yes, preparation starts at home. Sit down with yourself or your caregiver and write out some of your favorite foods. Make sure to write snacks and meals.
Making a list of meals that can be made quickly and easily created is key, then make your shopping list from there.
Reactions to chemotherapy differ greatly.
It’s important to take into consideration when meal planning nutritional content and ease of making. I know also, at the very least, I am going to be fatigued. Take this into consideration in planning. Food needs to be quick and easy AND NUTRITIOUS.
That’s a tall order.
For example, my list includes Uncle Bens 90 sec whole grain and Spanish rice, yogurt, DanActive Immunity (I first tried this at Dana Farber’s infusion suite), tabouli, hummus, refried beans, soy milk, ice cream/gelato, eggs.
Frozen meatballs (regular and Swedish) are great with multigrain pasta. I use all sorts of bottled sauces for quick easy pasta and throw in with cooked pastas and fresh vegetables (broccoli and carrots, anyone?) to heat the sauce and semi sautee.
Make sure to cut up veggies in advance and freeze or put in fridge or buy them frozen, precut or a meal like this frozen and premade.
It’s always good to have some completely frozen meals on hand.
You can also find veggies with sauces (like frozen broccoli and cheese, which is actually GOOD for you. I don’t remember why, a nutritionist told me, but trust me on this one.)
You can find organized grocery shopping lists on the web, check http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/grocery-list.html
It would also be wise, as a patient, to fill out a grocery list for WEEKLY NEEDS should you become incapacitated somebody will always know you NEED to have 2$ milk, deli turkey, wheat bread, etc. . .
2. With the list complete, it’s time to grocery shop.
Today, two days before chemo, I am grocery shopping.
Nothing special here, except in the years of treatment I have learned that if you pack the groceries into the bags the way you want to take them out, unpacking is much more quick and efficient.
I don’t usually have energy to waste, so frozen stays with frozen, fridge items stay with fridge items, and individual cabinet items stay with other items in the cabinet.
This way, when I go to unpack, if I am exhausted and I want to just shove the bag in the cabinet, shut the door, and forget about it until I need the food, I can.
Or even better, when I go to unpack and I am so tired I need to prioritize; I know right where to find the frozen food to get them in the freezer so I can go take my nap.
3. Put all food anticipated to be needed in a "working kitchen triangle".
You may have heard this before, the idea comes alongside the vogue kitchen design necessity of a “kitchen triangle” which houses the fridge, sink, and stove.
That small area in the kitchen should house ALL food needs to make preparation easier.
Looking into the future, the beauty of it is, for rehab purposes, your caregiver can begin to move your needs outside the working area to force more walking (Eventually, my cheerios were moved as far away from the fridge as possible).
Right now though, the goal is to meet needs efficiently, with the least energy expenditure.
I think being able to thrive somewhat independently, like preparing NUTRITIOUS meals and snacks is important for a patient to continue to accomplish even during the worst plagues of fatigues.
Studies have shown, the key factor to compliance is convenience.
Preparation and arrangement is key. I keep my blender, toaster and coffee maker in my triangle. It makes life easier.
4. Prepare foods in advance.
Yes, I said it. Make your life easier. You’ll love me for this tip later. There is a reason the boy scouts mantra is “always be prepared.”
How do you do this in the world of chemo food?
Increase the recipe and refrigerate and freeze.
I make smoothy “batches.” I increase the recipe so I have enough for three mornings and place them in individual containers, jars or Tupperware are fine.
I can refrigerate or freeze.
Also, cut up veggies, fruits, or meats you’ll be needing and store them in your fridge alongside what you plan on eating them with, or bundle ingredients together in storage.
When I chop up cucumbers, I put them near the honey mustard sauce, which is also close to the turkey and cheese.
Are we following here?
This way, I can open the kitchen door once, make on grab, get everything I need, then shut the door.
Then, when I am done, I can open the door, put everything back all at once, and shut it.
Opening the door any more times than two is a failure.
Yes, this is what I do in my head when I am preparing meals.
Preparation efficiency is a little like dancing: step, one, toe. Step one two. Step one, two. . . .
Meals can also be made the day before chemo and frozen.
Soups are especially friendly for this idea. I like Italian bowtie soup, black bean soup, jumbalayas, and white chili, but again, what each patient can tolerate is individualized.
Miso soups are great for probiotics. They are also simple and brothy. Miso can be found at any stoe in the health food section now.
This is a better option than bullion soups, which are salty and contain little health content though both soups are warm liquid.
Here is a simple recipe: http://www.fabulousfoods.com/recipes/article/210/18710
If you like it, you can go ahead, get crazy, and add noodles. Here is that recipe: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/miso-soup-recipe.html It’s like Japanese combination ramen and chicken soup.
5. This step is important, go through the kitchen with fresh eyes. Pretend you are disabled.
6. I can’t count the times I have cried, knowing what I want to eat but not being able to open the package. MAKE SURE ALL CAPS ARE LOOSENED. Look at the premade meals, will the person be able to lift it?
I found a friend crying after she had surgery because her neighbor had made her a great, large chicken casserole and after she heated it she was too weak to get it out of the oven.
People’s bodies change with not only chemotherapy but with any surgery or disability, try to remember to make meals that can be remade at the patients functioning capacity.
One Final shopping advice tip, shop prepared. I know if you are a staunch do-it-yourselfer this may be hard, but now is the time to buy pre-made for your health’s sake. I love the premade sauces, marinades, dips, and toubali.
I have also discovered the grocers “premade meals section” which houses good food all ready made. If this is going to be hard just repeat after me: soups can come in cans or bags.
If acclimating to the pre-made aisle is your biggest worry, then you are in good shape going into treatment. I wish somebody had told me these secrets.