Changes in Taste and Smell

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Changes in Taste and Smell

Cancer and its treatments can cause changes in your senses of taste and smell. These changes can affect your appetite and the amount you are able to consume. If you are having these problems, try different foods, marinades, spices, and ways of preparing.
Don’t give up on certain foods. What tastes off today may taste OK tomorrow.
For bitter or metallic taste:

  • Use plastic and glass flatware.

  • Try sugar-free lemon drops, sour balls, gum, or mints.

  • Try fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned.

  • Season foods with tart flavors such as lemon wedges, lemonade, citrus fruits, and vinegar.

  • Experiment with herbs, spices, and marinates.

  • Try onion, garlic, chili powder, basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, barbecue sauce, mustard, catsup, or mint.

  • Serve foods cold or at room temperature.

  • Freeze and eat fruits such as cantaloupe, grapes, oranges, and watermelon.

  • If red meats taste strange, try other protein-rich foods such as chicken, fish, eggs, or cheese.

  • Blend fresh fruits into shakes and smoothies with ice cream or yogurt.

  • Adding Nutrasweet may reduce the acidic taste of some foods.

  • Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of finely ground, decaffeinated coffee to a chocolate or vanilla liquid supplement. This will cut the sweetness and give the shake a 'mocha' flavor.

  • Rinse your mouth with baking soda mouthwash before eating to help improve the tastes of foods. (Mix ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 quart water)

  • Keep your mouth clean and brush you teeth with a non-mint-flavored toothpaste.

To improve smells:

  • Cover beverages and drink through a straw.

  • Choose cold foods or those that do not need to be cooked.

  • Avoid eating in rooms that are stuffy or too warm.

  • Don’t be present in the kitchen when food is being prepared.

  • Eat outside of the kitchen to avoid smells or wait until food is slightly cool before entering

For more information or further recommendations contact your Dietitian

Keri Ryniak, RD, CSO, CNSD at 443-849-8186

Adapted from Eating Made Easy. Recipes and Tips for the Cancer Survivor. Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head and Neck Center at GBMC and Eldridge B, and Hamilton KK, Editors, Management of Nutrition Impact Symptoms in Cancer and Educational Handouts Chicago, Il: American Dietetic Association; 2004. Revised: 1/11/2008

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