MD Anderson launches online healthy cookbook for families

Cookbook aims to lower obesity in childhood cancer survivors and healthy public

MD Anderson News Release 10/01/12

Obesity is a growing concern, not only in healthy children, but among pediatric cancer patients and survivors.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital is taking action to combat this trend with the launch of its @TheTable Cookbook - an online, mobile-enhanced database of healthy, family-friendly recipes.

@TheTable Cookbook boasts more than 300 original recipes provided by professional chefs, members of the community as well as employees and patients at MD Anderson. The recipes have been vetted by nutritionists at the hospital and taste-tested by local families.

"Studies have shown that obesity is a risk factor for certain health conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease," said Joya Chandra, Ph.D., associate professor at MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital and lead collaborator on the cookbook. "We hope this cookbook will encourage healthier eating habits in children early in life to help reduce their risk of developing these conditions as adults."

Created by families for families
Developed from the input of patient families who are juggling appointments and treatment while keeping their routine at home, the majority of recipes:

  • have preparation and cook times less than 45 minutes
  • use fewer than 15 ingredients
  • incorporate simple steps for children to participate in cooking
  • have low calorie counts (under 400 per serving)
  • incorporate nutritious alternatives to common ingredients

Users also can customize recipes on the website by decreasing the amount of an ingredient or deleting it altogether, which also automatically adjusts the nutritional information table present on each recipe page.
Recipes may be searched for in a variety of ways based on input from patients and caregivers. For instance, users can call up recipes based on symptom, taste, texture and color. For young cancer patients who may need to gain weight during treatment, there are recipes tagged with higher calorie content but still packed with nutritional value.

"Many of our survivors' bad eating habits started when they were undergoing treatment, so we wanted to create resources and interventions that could get them back on track for a healthier lifestyle after cancer," said Chandra. "What we ended up with was a cookbook that all families can use, whether cancer has affected them or not."

Translating better eating into better survivorship
The cookbook was created through the ON (Optimizing Nutrition) to Life Program. Directed by Chandra, ON to Life serves to promote healthy eating habits in pediatric cancer patients and survivors through education, interventions and research. Members of the cookbook committee included caregivers, community advocates, healthy teens, nutritionists, researchers and chefs.

Other features of the site include cooking videos of various recipes and nutrition resources covering a spectrum of topics. Users can also rate their favorite dishes and submit their own original recipes to add to the cookbook.

The ON to Life Program and online cookbook have been supported by funding from the Gerber Foundation, Santa's Elves Parties, Farrah Fawcett Foundation, David and Cathy Herr and MD Anderson Children's Art Project. Technical production of the @TheTable Cookbook was facilitated through MD Anderson's e-Health Technology Program of the Duncan Family Institute for Cancer Prevention and Risk Assessment.