Following up on our Nutrition in Paediatric Cancer post yesterday, here is a bit more about holistic nutritionist, Danielle Cook Navidi’s program and another yummy recipe from her.
Navidi’s 11-year-old son, Fabien Navidi-Kasmai, was diagnosed with Stage III Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the only nutrition advice she received was, “Let him eat McDonald’s. He needs the calories.”
She was appalled, and as a mother and an avid cook with a love of farmers markets and a background in catering, she decided to do something about it. She was convinced fast food was not the answer, so “went back to basics” and…
Navidi began volunteering at MedStar Georgetown in 2008. “I pretty much just asked, ‘Can I take a little spot and make smoothies?’ She would do prep at home, pre-cooking anything that required a stove or oven, and showed up at the hospital with bags of groceries.
Aziza Shad, chief of MedStar Georgetown’s pediatric hematology-oncology program helped find grant money to fund Danielle Cook Navidi’s program and encouraged Navidi to compile her recipes into a book.
“As an oncologist, you have to make sure your patients are in good shape nutritionally,” says Shad. “If a child doesn’t eat well, he can’t handle chemotherapy well. Nutrition is medicine. It’s all connected.”
Shad says cancer treatment has a major impact on appetite. Sores can develop in the mouth, throat and gastrointestinal tract. Foods that are raw, acidic or greasy become hard to digest. Food, even water, can begin to taste metallic due to changes in the lining of the mouth. Stress on the body leads to new cravings.
“Everything gets really out of whack,” Navidi says. “Fabien used to crave burritos and it just made him so sick.” Recognizing that what he really wanted was salt and fat, Navidi encouraged him to eat olives and feta cheese instead.
“Food and health can be a very sensitive topic. Families know that their food choices are not always the best,” she says. “They will come in with bags of fried chicken that they munch on (while waiting). I try not to be judgmental. We sit. We talk.”
In addition to soups and smoothies, the 43 recipes in “Happily Hungry” include comfort foods such as warm potato salad with black olive and mint pesto, and hazelnut-chocolate chip brownies. They’re focused on flavor, digestibility and easing side effects of cancer treatment, such as nausea, fatigue, dehydration and compromised immune function.
“There’s a feeling of not being in control of the situation when your child is sick,” Navidi says. “And when you’re cooking something they like, when you feel that you’re helping… That’s everything.”
The “Happily Hungry: Smart Recipes for Kids With Cancer” cookbook is available for purchase online at Amazon.com. For information about the program at MedStar Georgetown, call 202-342-2400.
Yummiest Turkey Burger Recipe
…and here, as an example of Nividi’s recipes, is a scrumptious Turkey Burger recipe, filled with nutrition, and best of all, your kids will love it…
Create a nice zing for these burgers by mixing together Dijon mustard, a tad of honey, lemon juice and lemon zest. The combination can really wake up impaired taste buds!
- 1.5 lbs.(about 680 grams) organic free-range ground turkey
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated sweet onion
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium Tamari or soy sauce
- 4 large whole wheat buns
- Tomato slices, lettuce, sliced cheddar or goat cheese—garnish
- Put the turkey, garlic, grated onion, mustard and Tamari sauce in a large mixing bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
- Preheat the grill or griddle to medium-high.
- Divide the turkey into 4 equal portions and form the meat into burgers.
- Grill until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
- If using cheese, add during the last 2 minutes of cooking.
- Put the burgers on the buns, garnish with tomato and lettuce if desired.
While this sounds great, turkey is not that prolific in South Africa, but I have no doubt that this burger is just as scrumptious if the turkey is replaced with the more common and accessible chicken in most South African fridges.
Don’t let the fact that some ingredients are not available put you off trying new things; we all usually have something in the cupboard that is a local equivalent or close ~ the idea is to see what you can give your Child with Cancer that is both nutritious and will appeal to their treatment-affected tastebuds.