Reviewed by: Karen Wagner, MS, RD, LDN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: March 11, 2010
Authors: Sandra Woodruff, RD & Leah Gilbert-Henderson
Publisher: Square One Publishers, 2007
Information: $16.95 US
I am very happy to review "Soft Foods for Easier Eating Cookbook" by Sandra Woodruff and Leah Gilbert-Henderson for OncoLink. Although this book does not exclusively deal with nutritional issues related to cancer or cancer treatments, it is an excellent resource for patients, family members, caregivers and clinicians. Many, many cancer patients have difficulty eating during their treatment. Dietitians often work closely with patients who have difficulty swallowing because of head, neck, esophageal or gastric cancers and this book certainly provides useful resource lists, recipes and guidance for any patient with or person involved in the care of these types of cancer. Additionally, many people undergoing treatment for other tumor types can experience, mouth sores, dry mouth, taste changes and other side effects that can make eating difficult. A soft diet can make eating easier in many of these cases. The authors go even further and provide tips on how to manage other issues that may arise in conjunction with the need for a soft diet, such as nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. They also discuss ways to modify soft diets in order to accommodate other dietary restrictions, including reduction of carbohydrates, salt and/or fat.
From the beginning of the book, the authors strike an upbeat, friendly tone. Yet they both clearly understand the serious and complex food and nutrition issues about which they are writing. Sandra Woodruff is a registered dietitian and author of a number of other cookbooks on healthy eating, and Dr. Leah Gilbert-Henderson has conducted research in various areas of nutrition and currently works with patients in long-term care facilities in addition to teaching and writing. Furthermore, Dr. Gilbert-Henderson committed herself to living on a purred diet for several months while writing this cookbook.
The book uses a clinical approach, and provides an easily readable overview of a number of conditions, including, but not limited to cancer and cancer treatments that make it necessary or helpful to follow a soft, pureed or even liquid diet. It provides resource lists for equipment to use in preparing the recipes and menus to use the recipes together. It also provides links to agencies that provide additional support and resources to patient populations that commonly require soft, pureed, or liquid diets. For instance, it provides address and contact information for the American Cancer Society, and Oncolink for cancer patients and the same information for the ALS foundation for patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
To get a further sense of the usefulness of this book, I enlisted the help of some of my patients, family and friends. Almost all of the feedback was very positive. One of the most common comments was how reassuring it was to have a resource and cookbook that really addressed the needs of people following a texture restricted diet. While soft textured or pureed recipes may be available through other cookbooks, websites and information provided by doctor’s offices, having everything from resource lists, recipes, menus and tips sheets all in one place was noted to be very useful. Even if the recipes weren’t to everyone’s liking, users reported that the range of dishes and flavors helped them be more creative about what they were eating and gave them confidence to try new things.
"Soft Foods for Easier Eating" will certainly be a resource for me in the future and I hope it will continue to be of use to the patients I work with.