Food & Drink

Cookbook designed to help those battling cancer

This book tackles a problem common to most everyone undergoing cancer treatment or caring for someone who is. Unfortunately, I imagine that everyone who reads The Meals to Heal Cookbook either knows someone who can use this book or can use it themselves.

Fighting cancer with the best and newest treatments can sometimes take a toll on the sufferer’s quality of life. The book attacks the problems posed by cancer and its treatments with culinary solutions that allow readers to benefit from both the physical and emotional benefits of a good, tasty meal.

Pills may have the side effect of making everything one eats taste like metal, or making it difficult to chew or swallow. Different medicines deplete certain necessary vitamins and minerals. Other treatments simply leave patients with no appetite at all. For the person with cancer or the caregiver, finding the right recipes for a simple meal to enjoy alone or in company can be an overwhelming task. Susan Bratton, one of the authors says, “Good nutrition may not be able to cure cancer, but it can certainly provide supportive benefits and improve patients’ well-being.”

Bratton and co-author Jessica Iannotta have both the personal and professional qualifications to attack this issue. Bratton is founder and CEO of Savor Health (formerly Meals to Heal), a comprehensive patient and caregiver focused cancer nutrition service. Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition.

Bratton began the path to founding her Savor Health company by looking for ways to provide nutritious meals to a friend dying of cancer. She searched widely for recipes that would provide nutrition, good taste, be easy to swallow and easy to prepare, among other things. She worked with specialists and even volunteered at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Bratton says, “I read everything I could get my hands on, focusing on the role nutrition plays in helping cancer patients become or remain strong during treatment. She discovered the dearth of such recipes, especially scarce in a format that would be easy to use for the home cook.

In 2011, she founded Savor Health working with dietician Jennifer Iannotta. Bratton says, “This cookbook is part of our mission to provide both patients and caregivers healthy, easy to prepare recipes that not only taste delicious to both patients and their caregivers but also address the many side effects they experience.”

The organization of the book and the recipes are both superb. The first section of the book, “How to use..” discusses the why and how of cancer, of herbs, of kitchen utensils, it describes everything you will need to gather to make the meals outlined in the recipe section. In addition, there is a separate section on managing side effects brought on by the disease and or the medicines and treatments used to fight it. Due to the lowered immune function, that is often a by-product of many cancer treatments, a large part of this front section is devoted to food safety and how to maintain a safe and healthy kitchen.

The organization of the recipes demonstrates the brilliance of the book and the authors’ commitment to making it a useful tool. The recipes are set out in a standard way, by breakfast, lunch bowls entrees and the like. However, it is the two recipe indices that make the book really useful, listing the recipes by side effects and by symptoms.

To make it even easier for people to identify the utility of each recipe, the presentation of each on the page is accompanied by a column of possible problems, with the potential for help offered by this recipe checked off. The categories are: Lack of Appetite, Nausea, Vomiting, or Heartburn, Constipation, Diarrhea, Fatigue, Mouth Sores, Dry Mouth, Chewing or Swallowing Difficulty, Taste, Aversion to Sweet Taste, Aversion to Sour & Bitter, Lack of Taste, and Smells Bother. In addition, at the end of each recipe is a notes section. I was particularly taken by the use of amaranth porridge leftovers—making it into cookies.

So many of the 150 recipes were delightful and easy to prepare that it was difficult to chose one to share. I settled on the Spicy Lentil Burritos, a recipe that shows the appeal of the book for the caregivers as well as those who need care and offers flavors and spices to spark the appetite.

This is definitely a book to consider as a gift for anyone who has cancer, is recovering from cancer, or who is caring for someone suffering from this disease.

Spiced Lentil Burritos

Reprinted with Permission of Da Capo Lifelong Books

Time: Prep: 10 minutes; Cook: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Note from Authors “A variety of spices are the star of this recipe and pair beautifully with the lentils and leeks. If you are sensitive to spice, consider tabling this recipe for another, less sensitive time. Add shredded chicken, turkey, or tofu, for extra protein.”


4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 medium-size leeks, white parts only

1 tablespoon olive oil

3⁄4 teaspoon dried marjoram

3⁄4 teaspoon chili powder

1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin

1⁄2 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

2 cups cooked green, black, or brown lentils (if using canned lentils, drain and rinse before using)

4 flour tortillas

1⁄2 cup shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese


1. In large bowl, toss the tomatoes, lime juice, and cilantro. Set aside.

2. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise. Clean thoroughly. Chop into small pieces.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, marjoram, chili powder, coriander, cumin, and hot sauce, if using. Sauté until the leeks are tender and translucent, for about 5 minutes. Add the lentils and mix.

4. Divide the mixture into four equal portions and place on the tortillas.

Add the cheese and tomato mixture and roll up the tortillas into burritos.

Title | The Meals to Heal Cookbook:150 Easy, Nutritionally Balanced Recipes to Nourish You during Your Fight with Cancer

Authors | Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta

Publisher | Da Capo Lifelong Books

Cost | $18.99