There's Nothing Like a Home-cooked Meal, Especially One to Help a Friend

January 31, 2023
Swiss and Spinach Strata

High in protein and fiber, Swiss and Spinach Strata is one of many tasty recipes you’ll find in our healthy recipe gallery for people impacted by cancer.

If your friend or loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you may be wondering how you can best support them. It’s natural to want to jump in and help in any way you can, and there are many ways to do so. One great place to start is by asking if they’d like help with meals.

Organizing healthy, home-cooked meals for your friend is a tangible way to show your love and support. It will also free up time for your friend as they navigate their cancer diagnosis. Most people can probably agree that planning healthy meals each week takes time and thought. It can also be time-consuming to shop for, prepare, and clean up after each meal. It’s easy to imagine how quickly all that time adds up ― and can become stressful ― for someone who is navigating a cancer diagnosis.

So, if you’d like to help organize meals for your friend, chances are they will appreciate having one less thing to worry about as they balance medical appointments, treatment decisions, and other tasks on their to-do list. During their cancer treatment, it’s possible they may also experience side effects like fatigue or weakness. Having help with meals will give your friend more time to conserve their energy and focus on healing.  

“I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a Valentine as you can give.” 

― Julia Child, American chef, teacher, & author

Providing help with meals isn’t just a source of practical support. We’ve all heard the saying that there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal. That is especially true during difficult times, when receiving home-cooked meals from friends and loved ones can be a source of comfort, encouragement, nourishment, and hope. 

If you’d like to organize healthy, home-cooked meals for your friend, here are 7 tips to help you get started:

1. Determine dietary needs & preferences. You’ll want to make sure that meals meet your friend’s needs. Do they have any dietary restrictions, allergies, or preferences? Have they received any special instructions from their healthcare team, such as avoiding certain foods while receiving a specific cancer treatment? What are the best foods to eat after chemotherapy? What foods do cancer patients need to avoid? For some helpful tips, review diet and nutrition considerations for people during cancer treatment.

“Cooking is a caring and nurturing act. It’s kind of the ultimate gift for someone, to cook for them.”

― Curtis Stone, Australian chef

2. Determine a frequency. You don’t have to prepare meals every day of the week to be helpful. Ask your friend when it would be most useful to receive meals. For example, are there specific days of the week when they have a routine medical appointment? Or, maybe a home-cooked dinner would be a nice treat on Friday nights, to help your friend kick off a relaxing weekend. You want to make things easier for them, so be sure the timing is ideal based on their schedule.

3. Determine the serving size. Will you be cooking for just your friend, or also for their family? A recipe that serves 4 is plenty for your friend and their partner or spouse. For a family of 5, however, you might want to bump up the recipe proportions. 

4. Develop a helping network. Are you planning to cook and deliver meals without assistance, or would you like help? If you would like help, ask others in your friend’s circle if they want to contribute. Invite them to help with different tasks like meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, or delivery. To save time, create a private support website for your friend or loved one, and use the Helping Calendar tool to organize volunteers for meals and other tasks

Amber shares how the Helping Calendar on her private support website at eased the burden for her caregivers and helped her manage an overwhelming schedule after her cancer diagnosis.

5. Find healthy recipes for people impacted by cancer. One important step in this process is identifying healthy recipes to prepare. Fortunately, a delicious and nutritious meal doesn’t have to be complex. As American chef Julia Child once said, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces ― just good food from fresh ingredients.”

Explore our Healthy Recipe Gallery for simple, colorful recipes. If you like watching short, step-by-step cooking videos, also be sure to visit our Virtual Kitchen

All our recipes were specifically created to support the nutritional needs of people impacted by cancer. Search our recipe collections by meal type or by a specific eating challenge, such as nausea, which can be a common side effect from cancer treatment. Other eating challenges to help you filter your search include:

  • Adding calories
  • Adding fiber
  • Change in taste
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth pain
  • Sour aversions
  • Swallowing
  • Sweet aversions
Watch this 2-minute video showing you how to make a simple lentil soup. It's bursting with colors and flavors and easy to prepare in one pot.

6. Try it out. After you establish a plan, see how it works over a short period of time and ask your friend for feedback. Depending on how long you plan to cook and deliver meals, you can adjust your plan as needed. 

7. Cook together. Does your friend enjoy cooking? Consider preparing some meals together if they feel up to it. It’s common to experience feelings like stress, sadness, and loneliness after a cancer diagnosis. Spending time with your friend doing relaxing activities like cooking can help ease their distress and take their mind off their diagnosis. 

Gather all the ingredients ahead of time. That way, you and your friend can focus on the cooking process in the kitchen. Play some music, talk about your favorite foods, or simply enjoy each other’s quiet company as you create a delicious meal together.

“The most indispensable ingredient of all good home cooking: love for those you are cooking for.”

― Sophia Loren, Italian actress

If you are supporting your friend from a distance, you can still lend a hand. One idea is to research and share healthy recipes with them for inspiration. Or consider organizing volunteers among friends and family who live near your loved one and can cook and deliver meals. Looking for more ways to show your love and support from afar?

Discover 5 tips for Long-distance Caregivers