Kids ‘Cooking With Cancer’ Help to Whip Up Healthy Recipes at MedStar Georgetown

Food is good medicine but when the ravages of chemotherapy make eating a challenge, what’s a parent caring for a sick child to do? Danielle Cook Navidi had this challenge in 2004 when her son Fabien then 11, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

October 8, 2012

When Comfort Food Isn’t Comfortable for Kids Receiving Cancer Treatment, A New Cookbook Hits the Spot!

(Washington, D.C.) — Food is good medicine but when the ravages of chemotherapy make eating a challenge, what’s a parent caring for a sick child to do? Danielle Cook Navidi had this challenge in 2004 when her son Fabien then 11, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“The things Fabien normally wanted to eat wouldn’t stay down. He wasn’t hungry. But I knew that to continue his life-saving treatment he had to keep up his weight and his strength. I had to find a way to make him eat,” said Danielle.

Kids 'Cooking With Cancer' Help to Whip Up Healthy Recipes at MedStar GeorgetownSo Danielle began to find ways to get the maximum amount of nutrition out of every bite he could tolerate: she used lemon, garlic and herbs to wake up tired taste buds, she replaced fats and hard-to-digest proteins with more plant-based proteins, she found foods like cooling smoothies that he could eat despite mouth sores and she learned to calm a queasy stomach with homemade ginger ale using organic ginger root and agave nectar.

In 2010 Danielle went back to school to get a master’s degree in holistic nutrition. With the support of MedStar Georgetown’s head of pediatric hematology/oncology, Aziza Shad, MD, who had treated Fabien, Danielle compiled a recipe book focused on children who are in treatment for cancer called “Happily Hungry: Smart Recipes for Kids with Cancer.” Recipes are easy on the stomach, high in nutrition and fun for kids to prepare. Foods in the cookbook can be cross referenced with cancer treatment side effects like nausea, mouth sores, appetite changes or diarrhea.

Dr. Shad said, “When children don’t eat well during treatment and lose a lot of weight, doses of chemotherapy have to be lowered. They can also be more susceptible to infection, which usually results in delays in treatment. Nutritious and appealing, easy-to-digest foods encourage them to eat. Similarly, appetizing, healthy recipes are also great for young cancer survivors, where obesity is surfacing as a problem.”

Proceeds from sale of the $19.95 book benefit the continued growth of the pediatric cancer nutrition program at MedStar Georgetown. In fact, as part of the “Cooking with Cancer” program sponsored by the Hyundai Foundation, Danielle is a regular in the children’s oncology clinic where she whips up healthy and fun recipes with the kids who are waiting for their doctor appointments. Several children treated at MedStar Georgetown are pictured in the beautifully photographed, spiral-bound pages.

In addition, the recipes are geared towards encouraging childhood cancer survivors to live a healthy life. Recipes include: Purple Power Smoothie, Triple Squash Soup, Warm Potato Salad with Black Olive and Mint Pesto, Shredded Lemony Carrot Salad, baked salmon with dill sauce, Open Sesame Noodles, hazelnut chocolate chip brownies and pumpkin molasses pie, just to name a few.

“These recipes are really good for everyone, “said Danielle, “but especially for children and adults with health challenges like cancer or diabetes.“

“Happily Hungry” was published in September 2012. Danielle lives in Washington D.C. Fabian attends college in Philadelphia where he will be graduating in 2013. The book is available on Amazon.