Indian food ideas for cancer patients during chemotherapy
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It’s not easy to see the dear ones suffering in pain. I know how you are feeling right now. Cancer is tough. Surviving through the process of chemotherapy is tougher.

Good nutrition has been proved to be a huge support to –

  • Prevent the further growth of cancer cells
  • Heal the body faster
  • Withstand the complication s during chemotherapy

I know what you are thinking. When feeding itself is a huge challenge, a phrase like good nutrition is like a “dream” – right?

No, the process of feeding becomes less hassle while you start planning the meal considering the chemotherapy-induced complications – sore mouth, dry mouth, nausea, acidity, constipation, diarrhea, lack of energy, etc.

Don’t expect that patient will finish 3-4 square meals like you. Rather change the feeding routine and technique as per the condition.

  • Focus on the small frequent meal – maybe 6-7 times a day
  • Concentrate on the quality rather than the quantity of food
  • Make each meal energy & nutrient-dense – add 3-4 groups of food and make a complete meal. Eg – Khichri– a combination of cereal(Rice),  pulse( moong dal), vegetables (potato, cauliflower, carrot, tomato, etc), and fat (ghee) as per patients preference.
  • Try one bowl meal as the Indian traditional thali style of eating may not work most of the time
  • Pay attention to the consistency and temperature of the food – avoid foods that are too hot or too cold or having a chewy texture or hard to eat.
  • Serve food while warm or at room temperature and easy to eat- liquid/ semi-solid or soft in texture
  • Avoid food with strong flavor/odor, too much of spices are best to avoid

So what are the options? Well, you still have plenty. Here are a few energy and nutrient-dense Indian food ideas in various consistencies. Follow the basic recipes to prepare the foods listed below.

Indian food ideas for cancer patients during chemotherapy 13

List of recipes based on the consistency you may try as per the condition of the cancer patient during chemotherapy –

LiquidSemi solidSolid
Coconut waterStew/ BrothDosa
Fruit / vegetable JuiceSmoothieChilla/ Uttapam
Clear SoupCooked PorridgePancake
MilkSoaked  PorridgeIdli
Lassi/ ButtermilkRaitaUpma/ Poha
Ragi water/ Sattu water Khichri

Liquid foods idea for cancer patients during chemotherapy

When to rely on a liquid diet –

  • If the patient is semiconscious
  • Too weak to chew food
  • Complaining soreness in mouth, nausea

Any of the liquid food is not a complete meal. Therefore one must not only depend on a liquid diet for long. Ideally, these liquid foods are best when taken in between two meals.

5 best liquid food you may offer to cancer patients during chemotherapy –

Coconut water –

Indian food ideas for cancer patients during chemotherapy 1

It’s the best drink that mother nature has made for us and available throughout the year. Needless to say, it’s 100% organic loaded with minerals and electrolytes that the patient’s body craves during the chemotherapy tenure.  It’s even great for patients to control blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

Fresh coconut water 3-4 times a week is completely safe for most cancer patients. Avoid giving packaged coconut water. Mid-morning is the best time to have this.

Make sure cancer patients struggling with mouth soreness, nausea should have it slowly by taking a small sip.

Juice – fruit juice/ vegetable juice/ fruit- vegetable juice

Indian food ideas for cancer patients during chemotherapy 2

Juices are good sources of vitamins as well as minerals. Raw fruit/ vegetable juices also provide phytonutrients.  Try giving it as the first food in the morning or at mid-morning or post-lunch before sunset.

Always remember to go by the season and local variety. Yes, that’s the key to choose your fruit. Wondering why? Local and seasonal fruits have the least pesticide and preservative load so much safe for the patients.

Choose the fruit as per the patient’s choice. If the patient is having diarrhea, strain the juice well otherwise strain the juice first and then add half the pulp again back in the juice.

Homemade fresh fruit juice with orange/ mango/ sweet lemon/ lemon/ pomegranate/ pineapple/ papaya etc are good choices.

Try making vegetable juices at times with carrot, beetroot, spinach, tomato, coriander, cucumber, etc.

You may also try to make vegetable- fruit juice like a carrot – orange or beetroot- pomegranate or cucumber- tomato- coriander juices. The best part of vegetable –fruit juice is, you don’t really need to add much sugar if the fruit itself is sweet. Add a dash of lemon juice, ginger, a pinch of rock salt to make it tasty.

Remember, you can’t afford to take any chances for food poisoning. Therefore, wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly before making the juice.

Do not give processed and packaged fruit/ vegetable juices no matter how real they claim in the advertisement. These juices contain either no or very less amount of actual juice and loaded with sugar, hidden sugar, and preservatives.

So, there is no alternatives of making it fresh daily for the patient.


Indian food ideas for cancer patients during chemotherapy 3

Soup is a great choice when the patient is unable to chew or too weak to eat food. It can be a good source of almost all the nutrients when prepared to combine cereal( rice/ dalia/ corn), pulse (dal/ beans), vegetables, and butter/oil.

Try adding at least one vegetable from each category –

  1. Green leafy vegetables – Spinach, coriander, mint or any leaves
  2. Cruciferous vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, radish, broccoli etc.
  3. Other vegetables –  variety of gourd, ladies finger, tomato etc
  4. Roots & tubers – potato, sweet potato, yam, tapioca, carrot, beetroot, onion etc

You may also add a tablespoon of soft rice/ well cooked broken wheat (dalia)/ soft shredded chicken/ corn/ well cooked any type of dal/ beans etc to the soup. Blend it all and make it into a liquid consistency. Add salt, pepper, lemon/ a tsp of butter on top as per preference.

Be careful about using spices. If the patient is struggling to manage nausea, adding strongly flavored food like garlic/ onion, etc may not be a good choice.

You can give soup for breakfast or evening snacks or even for dinner. Avoid serving it too hot rather than keeping it warm will be more suitable.


Indian food ideas for cancer patients during chemotherapy 7

There is no doubt that milk is one of the complete foods on its own. If the patient has no issue in digesting milk, does not have lactose intolerance or milk allergy, etc, a glass of milk is a good choice.

Considering the adulteration, the presence of too many antibiotics in milk these days, it is always advised to look for good quality milk. Instead of whole milk or toned milk try giving double toned milk to the patient.

Think of adding a tablespoon of well-cooked suji/ dalia/ragi flour/ sattu/ roasted groundnut powder/ roasted nuts & seeds powder etc to boost the energy as well as the nutrient value of the milk.

You can also try giving a cup of haldi doodh (turmeric milk) before bed. Add a pinch of freshly crushed turmeric root and black pepper powder to its maximum benefit.

Lassi/ Buttermilk

Indian food ideas for cancer patients during chemotherapy 4

A patient who cannot tolerate milk may try to have lassi/ buttermilk. Top it with roasted and ground cumin powder. A glass of it can be given post-meal for better digestion. It’s better to use home set curd to make lassi/buttermilk.

You may think of adding some soft fruit  – mango/ Chiko/ banana etc to it for bringing more flavor. If the patient is not complaining of nausea and can digest the fruit-flavored lassi, it can be given maybe once a week for bringing variety to the diet.

   There is packaged lassi/ buttermilk available these days. However, it’s always better to avoid the ready to drink one for the patients.

Ragi water/ Sattu water

Ragi water is a common breakfast/ snack drink in south India and if you are from the eastern zone then you must be aware of sattu water.

Ragi comes under cereal. It’s a type of millet gives ample energy and micronutrient. However, sattu is roasted Bengal gram flour which comes under pulses. Sattu is a good source of protein, fiber, and micronutrient.

Both are good choice for patients under chemotherapy.

Semi-solid foods idea for cancer patients during chemotherapy

When to rely on semi-solid food –

  • If patient is semiconscious
  • Too weak to chew food
  • Complaining soreness in mouth

Semi-solid foods provide better nutrition than liquid foods. These foods are best once prepared to combine 3-4 groups of food to supply more balanced nutrition. It’s best to take once or twice a day as a wholesome snack.

Stew/ Broth

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As mentioned for the soup above, the same method you can apply for making stew/ broth. A bowl of stew can be a complete meal if 3-4 groups of foods are added to it.  

Think of adding –

  • 1-2 tablespoon of cereal – soft cooked rice/ dalia/corn/ ragi flour/quinoa and/ or
  • 1-2  table spoon of pulses-  any boiled dal/ beans and/ or
  • Vegetables including leafy one, roots& tubers(potato/ carrot/ beet etc), other vegetables( any gourd etc) and cruciferous vegetable( cauliflower/ cabbage/ raddish/ broccoli)  and/or
  • Few small pieces of chicken with/ without bones and/ or
  • Few pieces of paneer/ tofu
  • A tsp of butter on top

Serve it warm for breakfast/ lunch/ dinner or even as a snack. Just make sure all the foods are soft and well cooked in the stew.


Indian food ideas for cancer patients during chemotherapy 9

Smoothie is another great option for one bowl/ glass meal. You can go creative by adding a variety of foods to it and blend to get a delicious concoction.

A smoothie may or may not be milk-based. Patients who are unable to tolerate milk can think of having water-based smoothie. Think of adding –

  • 1-2 tablespoon of cereal – cooked oats/ ragi flour/ dalia/ suji/ soaked flaked rice and/ or
  • A cup of double toned / skimmed milk and/ or
  • Any soft locally available seasonal fruit  – banana/ mango/ chiko/ papaya/ date etc
  • 1-2 tablespoon of sattu and/or
  • Roasted/ overnight soaked nuts& seeds – walnut/ almond/ cashew/ pumpkin seed/ flaxseed/ sesame seed/ garden cress seed/ sabja seed/ melon seed etc and/ or
  • Some spices for flavour –  ginger/ cinnamon/ cardamom/ vanilla etc

Pick any one item from each category as per the patient’s choice and blend to get a thick smoothie. Few may also enjoy a vegetable-based smoothie. Feel free to explore recipes as per preference.

Smoothie is a wholesome breakfast/ snack option for the patient. On the days when the patient refuses to eat, you may think of offering a quick smoothie.


If not smoothie, then think of making porridge. You can make it in various ways – sweet or salty. Cook it well to become soft and serve it warm for breakfast/ snack. Days when the patient is too weak to eat, consider giving porridge as lunch/ dinner also.

Type of porridgeFoods you may add
Soaked porridgeCereal (flaked rice/ puffed rice/ oats/ sago) and/or
Pulses (Sattu) and/or
Milk/curd and/or
Seasonal fruit and/or
Cooked porridgeCereal (Dalia/ suji/ buckwheat/ rice/ ragi/ corn/ oat/ quinoa) and/or Milk/ curd and/or
Seasonal fruit/  Chopped vegetables and/or
Nut/seeds and/or 1 tsp of ghee  

Solid foods idea for cancer patients during chemotherapy

You may try giving this one plate/ bowl meal when the patient is comparatively fit to eat normal food. Just like semi-solid foods described above, combining 3-4 groups of food makes the ultimate food not only energy-dense but also provide complete nutrition.

There is a variety of healthy Indian recipes that you can try for feeding your dear one while struggling with cancer. Changing the prime ingredient and following the same method makes a huge difference in terms of taste and sometimes in flavor and texture. Here are such regular foods you may prepare without hesitation.

FoodAdded food groups and possible ingredients
Dosa/ UttapamCereal (rice/ ragi flour/ buckwheat flour etc) and
Pulse (urad dal/ green dal) and
Mashed mixed vegetables for stuffing and
Kachhi Ghani/ filtered oil  
ChillaCereal (suji/ buckwheat/ ragi)  and/or
Curd and/or Pulse (besan/ green moong) and
Chopped vegetables and
Kachhi Ghani/ filtered oil    
PancakeCereal (ragi/ oats/ whole wheat flour ) and/ or
Milk  and/ or
Egg and/ or
Fruits and/or
IdliCereal (Rice/ oats/ragi/ suji etc) and/ or
Curd and /or
Pulses (urad dal etc) and/or
Finely chopped vegetables  
Poha/upmaCereal (suji/ flaked rice/ quinoa/ oats/ dalia/ sago etc) and
Chopped vegetables and
Kachhi ghani/ filtered oil and/or
Scrambled egg  
KhichriCereal (rice/ dalia/ sago/ quinoa etc) and
Pulses (moong dal/ tur dal etc) and
Chopped vegetables and
Kachhi ghani/ filtered oil/ ghee    
Indian food ideas for cancer patients during chemotherapy 10

Points to note –

  • Do not use refined oil as it causes inflammation in the body including refined olive oil
  • Use kachhi ghani / filtered oil – mustard oil/ ground nut oil/ sesame oil/ coconut oil etc.
  • Try to limit daily sugar intake within 2-3 tsp and salt intake within 1- 2 tsp of salt
  • Give ample water daily for preventing constipation
  • Make sure fruits (local & seasonal), nuts & seeds (roasted or soaked), and colored vegetables  (especially cruciferous vegetables) are a part of the daily diet
  • Citrus fruits- lemon, sweet lime, oranges, amla, etc are must in the daily diet
  • Avoid refined flour, packaged and processed food, instant food, ready to eat, ready to cook food as far as possible
  • Freshly prepared food, homemade foods are the best choice
  • If the patient eats an egg, add  one as a scrambled egg on top

Bottom line

It’s a hard time, not only for the patient but also for the entire family. Stay strong and find a way to continue feeding – be it liquid/ semi-solid or in solid form. Add 3-5 groups of food to make an easy to eat energy & nutrient-dense one-bowl meal. There is no alternative to good nutrition to manage side effects. Try the ideas of Indian foods for the cancer patient during chemotherapy to make a difference. All the best.

Dr. Soma Chakrabarty has done her Ph.D. in Food and Nutrition in 2017. She is based in Hyderabad. She has 12 yrs of working experience in nutrition. Dr. Soma guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve the goal of wellness. She believes in a sustainable diet that helps people to live rather than survive.

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