15/12/2018 06:00 GMT

Three Christmas Recipes For People With Cancer To Make Food Feel Festive Again

Treatment can change your sense of taste, but these dishes should help.

Food is a central part of Christmas, but when you’re receiving cancer treatment, a bland turkey dinner or dry nut roast can be the last thing you want to eat. 

It’s not unusual for cancer and cancer treatments to cause problems with eating, including a loss of appetite, a sore mouth and changes in taste, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Rhiannon Bradley, who was diagnosed with both thyroid cancer and breast cancer before the age of 33, previously told HuffPost UK chemotherapy and radiotherapy left her with a metallic taste in her mouth. She felt like her gums had been stripped “red raw” and could barely taste any flavour. 

Rhiannon was helped by Life Kitchen – a free cookery class with adapted recipes for people with cancer and their loved ones. But for those unable to attend a session, Macmillan has teamed up with Greene King to create some treatment-friendly Christmas recipes for you to try at home. 

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“The recipes range from soft options like root veg mash and soups that are easy to swallow, to dishes high in vital nutrients for people who may not have much of an appetite,” explains Jo Pain, Macmillan Cancer Support specialist community dietitian. 

“We know some people with cancer have low energy levels, so we’ve also ensured these recipes are simple to prepare and cook too. Once the recipes were written, we invited people living with cancer and their families along to cook the dishes to make sure they are easy to make and tasty to eat.”

Check out the three recipes below: 

Spiced Parsnip And Honey Soup

Healthy and delicious, this dish is ideal for people on a liquid diet.


Serves 6. Preparation time: 20. Cooking time: 40.

2 tbsp vegetable oil
800g parsnips
3 sprigs thyme
1 large potato
1 white onion
500ml vegetable stock
50g butter
300ml single cream
50ml honey
Salt and pepper to tast


  • Heat the oven to 200°C. Peel and roughly chop the parsnips. Toss them in a baking dish with the vegetable oil and thyme. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.

  • Peel and cut the potato roughly into 1cm cubes and dice the white onion.

  • Cook the onion and potato in the butter in a large pot over a gentle heat for 10 minutes until the potato softens.

  • Add the vegetable stock and thyme then simmer.

  • Add the roasted parsnips and remove from the heat.

  • Blend the mixture with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth.

  • Return the soup to the heat and stir in the cream. Add seasoning to taste, then finish by stirring in the honey.

  • Serve straight away. You can also keep this soup in the fridge for 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Energy: 414kcal
Protein: 6g
Total Fat: 23g (of which saturates: 11g)
Carbohydrates: 43g
Fibre: 9g


Butternut Squash And Cranberry Nut Bake

A delicious and nutritious choice for a vegetarian Christmas dinner. It contains much more moisture than most nut roasts making it easier to eat.


Serves 6. Preparation time: 1 hour. Cooking time: 1 hour.

400g butternut squash
2tbsp olive oil
100g button mushrooms
1 small white onion
75g dried cranberries
125g mixed nuts
100g chestnut puree
1 garlic clove
50g butter
60g white bread
10g parsley
A pinch of salt. 


  • Heat the oven to 160°C.

  • Peel and grate the butternut squash into a mixing bowl.

  • Dice the onion, and finely chop the mushrooms and garlic. Add these to the bowl.

  • Mix everything altogether and season with the salt.

  • Wrap the vegetable mix in a clean tea towel and squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Then return the mix to the bowl.

  • Stir in the olive oil, mixed nuts, cranberries and chopped parsley.

  • Stir in the breadcrumbs and leave the mix in the fridge for 30 minutes.

  • Grease a muffin tray or loaf tin with the butter.

  • Spoon in the mixture and press down with the back of a spoon.

  • Cover with greaseproof paper then foil.

  • Bake at 160°C.

  • If you are using a loaf tin, bake the loaf for 55 minutes. If using a muffin tray, bake for 30 minutes.

  • Leave to rest for 5 minutes before turning out of the muffin tray or loaf tin.

Nutritional information (per portion):
Energy: 391kcal
Protein: 12g
Total fat: 24g (of which saturates 6g)
Carbohydrate: 43g
Fibre: 10g

Orange And Nutmeg Rice Pudding

A delicious treat for Christmas dessert. This dish is good for people with poor appetite and people who have experienced taste changes because of their cancer treatment.


Serves 6. Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 1hr 30 minutes.

140g arborio rice (or pudding rice)
1 litre whole milk
200ml single cream
1 vanilla pod (or 3 tsp of vanilla extract)
2 tbsp sugar
30g candied orange peel
1/2tsp of ground nutmeg (or half a grated nutmeg)
25g butter


  • Heat the oven to 150°C.

  • Mix together the rice, whole milk, cream, sugar and chopped orange peel in a mixing bowl.

  • Grease the base of an oven proof dish with the butter. You will need to use a dish with a lid.

  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dish.

  • Split and deseed a vanilla pod. Add both the empty pod and seeds to the dish. Or, add the vanilla extract if you are using this instead.

  • Grate ½ a nutmeg over the top using the fine edge of your cheese grater. Or, sprinkle with ground nutmeg.

  • Cover the dish with the lid and bake for 1 hour.

  • Using oven gloves carefully remove the lid and sprinkle the rice pudding with sugar. Then bake without the lid for a further 30 minutes.

  • Serve as soon as the pudding is cool enough to eat.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Energy: 348kcal
Protein: 9g
Total Fat: 16g (of which saturates: 10g)
Carbohydrates: 44g
Fibre: 2g

For more Christmas recipes, created by Macmillan Cancer Support and Greene King for people living with cancer, visit