Six Tips for Cooking with Cancer-Related Fatigue

Cancer-related side effects, like fatigue, can make it difficult to accomplish everyday—and for some, enjoyable—tasks, such as meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.

This can make it challenging to get the essential nutrients that can maintain your strength and support your recovery. But making a nutritious meal doesn’t always have to be time-consuming. Here are six tips on how to maximize your efforts in the kitchen.

Buy prepared ingredients. Purchasing precooked and pre-chopped ingredients reduces meal preparation time—helping to get food plated faster. Pick items that are the most difficult to prepare, like minced garlic or peeled and diced carrots. Remember to check the date to ensure that the product is fresh.

Make more than you need. Cook more than you plan to eat and freeze what doesn’t make it to the plate. Having a few prepared meals on-hand can be invaluable on particularly challenging days. Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website to learn more about storage times and guidelines for keeping your food from spoiling.

Let kitchen tools do the heavy lifting. Slow cookers take away the need to stay on your feet by the stove and minimize the number of dishes that need to be washed. Toss recipe ingredients in before you go to bed to have something ready for lunch the next day, or in the morning for dinner that evening.

Choose simple recipes. Try cooking meals that include 10 ingredients or less. Recipes like this chicken stir-fry or this parchment-wrapped citrus salmon require a few, basic ingredients and have fast cook times.

Make the most out of good days. On days when energy levels are higher, try preparing more complicated meals in large batches and freeze them until you are ready to reheat.

Ask for help. Recruit family, friends, partners, or roommates to help you prepare a meal. Invite them to stay and enjoy what you make together.

Find more healthy recipes from Dana-Farber nutritionists in our Health Library, or learn more about nutrition and cancer from the nutrition experts at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.