Happily Hungry.

Seven years ago, when I began doing research on an unproven cancer treatment, it was an article of faith in the alternative cancer community that, to prevent recurrence, if you should be so fortunate as to go into remission, you must change your diet to healthy foods.

a whole, raw red bell pepper

Red Bell Pepper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Healthy foods were defined as little meat, lots of fruits and vegetables, no processed foods, no sugar, and little white flour.

By contrast, patients told me, their oncologists still had bowls of candy on their counters.

Sugar, for those in the world of alternative cancer treatments, is believed to feed cancer.

A few years ago, I was encouraged to hear that a friend, recently diagnosed with cancer, had sought out a cancer nutritionist.

She was eager to follow the nutritionist’s advice, which mirrored what I was reading in the alternative cancer world.

But, she found, having changed her diet, it was difficult to entertain her grandchildren, who were unused to such a regimen, especially the lack of sugar.

This month, I found a cookbook written by the mother of a child diagnosed with Stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 11, who, at 19, is in remission.

This mother, Danielle Cook Navidi, went back to school to get a Master’s degree in nutrition in order to focus on crafting a diet for pediatric cancer patients.

Her focus is dual – providing healthy foods and paying attention to the special needs of children experiencing side effects during cancer treatment.

For several years, she has been teaching and demonstrating a “Cooking for Cancer” class at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

This is where her son was treated and where she is now director of the pediatric oncology nutrition program.

Eventually, others convinced her to share her recipes by writing a cookbook.

Happily Hungry: Smart Recipes for Kids with Cancer, by Danielle Cook Navidi, is the result, published in 2012.

Not only does she focus on fruits and vegetables, little meat and little white flour, but her sweeteners are all natural, such as agave nectar, honey or maple syrup.

Further, having come to understand the challenges associated with keeping up a child’s appetite during treatment, she focuses on easy-to-eat and easy-to-digest foods, like smoothies and soups.

Also, understanding that sometimes children just want something familiar, she offers recipes designed to comfort and to tease the appetite while remaining healthy, like meatballs, sweet potato fries and turkey burgers.

Each recipe includes nutritional information, like number of calories, fat, protein and sugars.

It also includes whether it is designed to help with nausea, appetite loss, constipation, mouth sores, fatigue, or taste alterations, common side effects of cancer treatment.

Her recipes include alternate ingredients for those who cannot tolerate milk products, such as soy milk, silken tofu, or coconut milk.

And, for those whose immune systems are so compromised they are advised not to eat raw foods, a condition called neutropenia, she also offers options for including cooked ingredients only.

Several of the parents of children profiled in the book say they have changed their diets around the regimen their children need, not only to model healthy eating for their children, but because it is also healthy for them.

My favorite recipe is a watermelon gazpacho.

I can’t wait until the watermelons of summer to try it.

Zesty Summer Watermelon Soup (not suitable for a neutropenic diet)


  • 3 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 English (hothouse style) cucumber, cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ¼ jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped, for garnish


  • Working in batches, process the watermelon, cucumber and red bell pepper separately in a food processor, then combine them in a large bowl or pitcher.
  • Process the onion, jalapeno pepper, ginger and mint together and add to the bowl or pitcher.
  • Lastly, add the lemon juice, olive oil, honey and pineapple juice and mix well.
  • The gazpacho should be well blended but retain some texture.
  • Refrigerate a minimum of 1 hour or up to 12 hours.
  • Serve in bowls and garnish with fresh mint.
  • Serves 6.

New Vocabulary: Neutropenia

Neutropenia means someone has  a low level of neutrophils, which constitute a majority (50-70%) of white blood cells.

This condition leaves cancer patients more susceptible to infections.

Eliminating raw food helps reduce the chance of introducing new bacteria to an already compromised system.

Click on the title to order a copy of Happily Hungry: Smart Recipes for Kids with Cancer.

Whether you have a need or are just looking for healthy recipes to make with your grandchildren, you can’t miss with this book.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru, Grandma to two awesome grandchildren

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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