Changes in taste are common during cancer treatment. Foods that once tasted delicious may no longer be appetizing. Certain foods may have less taste, or other foods (like meat) may be bitter or taste like metal. Smell can also be affected during cancer treatments. Foods that used to smell good may no longer be tolerable. Taste and smell changes often resolve once treatment has ended, but below are suggestions for staying well-nourished when foods don’t taste or smell like normal.
Managing with Nutrition:
- Choose foods that currently appeal to you. Avoid foods that do not appeal to you.
- Try tart foods and drinks. Foods containing lime, lemon, orange, or vinegar may be more appealing. Do not eat these foods if you have mouth sores.
- Moist or naturally sweet foods often work well. Try frozen or fresh melon pieces or grapes.
- Try eating cool-temperature foods instead of hot-temperature foods. Cool-temperature foods have less aroma and typically less taste.
- Use various spices or marinades to add flavor to dishes.
- Red meat can often have a metallic or bitter taste. Replace red meat-based protein sources with chicken, fish, eggs, nut butters, or beans.
- If foods taste too salty or bitter, try adding a small amount of sugar.
- Brush your teeth and tongue and rinse your mouth regularly, especially before eating.
- Replace metal forks and spoons with plastic versions. If you have a metallic taste in your mouth, eating with plastic forks and spoons can help. Eating with chopsticks may also help.
- Try using a cup with a lid to limit aromas.
- When cooking, use a kitchen fan. If someone else is doing the cooking, try to sit in a different room/area.
- When cooking, lift lids away from you to avoid smells.