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Designing Food to Taste Good To Cancer Patients

Many oncology patients swear off alcohol during treatment, but in the Czech Republic, where beer is the national beverage, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy have a new option.

… While beverages tend to make up the majority of convenience foods geared toward cancer patients, Hormel Health Labs’ Vital Cuisine line features palate-pleasers such as vegetarian stew and chicken and dumplings made with sensitive taste buds in mind.

Chef Ron DeSantis, who helped develop Hormel’s recipes, drew on his experience cooking for his wife, a breast cancer survivor.

“Bland things like rice and pasta worked well enough,” he says, “but I also discovered that butternut squash and legumes, white beans and chickpeas, paired with warming spices for an earthy flavor, were successful.”

As he worked with Hormel food scientists to develop similar recipes for Vital Cuisine, DeSantis remained mindful of his wife’s taste and texture preferences at the time of her treatment.

For example, he says algae protein gave the ready-to-serve meals a mouth feel that recalls a classic French roux while adding nutrients.

The company will continue to expand its Vital Cuisine offerings, currently available online and in select retail stores in the U.S. Upcoming additions include a high-calorie, high-protein shake, a clear protein beverage, and even cookies.

Such developments give Greene hope. “Having a company listen to patients’ experience will hopefully stimulate the creation of improved products,” he says. “Until there is a real solution to the problem, if something can give you some sort of joy within that terrible period, that’s a positive thing.”