The thought of a full Thanksgiving meal might be overwhelming if you’re living with cancer, so we’ve put together a yummy list of alternative thanksgiving recipes that are tailored to help you manage your symptoms and side-effects.


Some of the most common side effects reported by people living with cancer are eating difficulties, including nausea, mouth soreness, trouble swallowing, dry mouth, or a loss of taste. So how can you still be part of the Thanksgiving celebrations if a huge roast dinner with all the trimmings is out of the question?

The key to a successful holiday meal is to find some delicious, cancer-friendly options. To help you out, we’ve come up with some easy-to-eat Thanksgiving alternatives, to help you or someone you love enjoy Thanksgiving comfortably with the rest of the family.

You can also visit our guide to eating well, which is packed full of excellent tips, information, and strategies to help you manage your diet throughout the cancer experience.

And now, on to the recipes!

1. Thanksgiving Soup – Served In A Pumpkin!

This Thanksgiving Soup recipe from The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook is perfect for using seasonal produce like pumpkins or squashes. Pumpkin is full of vitamin E and beta-carotene, both of which help to support a healthy immune system. Add as much cheese and cream as you think you can handle, and you’ll have a deliciously creamy pumpkin soup, served in the most seasonal dish imaginable.

The high-calorie content of this soup is great if you’re struggling to get enough calories per day, and it should store well in the fridge. Try it as a starter or a comforting fall meal for the whole family – you might even start a new Thanksgiving tradition.

Top tip: don’t panic if your pumpkin starts to look a bit burnt, saggy, or even leaky while you bake it – just make sure it’s sitting in an ovenproof dish with raised sides, and give the inside a poke with a fork to check if it’s cooked through.


Thanksgiving soup

If you’re looking for more cancer-friendly recipe ideas, we really recommend the Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook! It’s compiled by Dr Clare Shaw, Consultant Dietitian at the London-based Royal Marsden Hospital, and as well as being specially designed to help people living with cancer, the recipes are just absolutely gorgeous.

2. Thanksgiving Stew – Turkey Doesn’t Get Moister Than This

Of course, the centrepiece of any traditional Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey. But if you’re having trouble chewing, swallowing, or tasting your food, the classic roast might not be your best option this year. A hearty turkey stew is an easy alternative that you can adjust to suit your needs – and you can throw in some of your favourite roast vegetables while you’re at it. This recipe from Dr Josh Axe is a solid foundation for you to work from. Alter the recipe according to your tastes, side effects, and what you have left in the pantry.

Top tip: Add in more seasoning if you’re struggling to taste things, or chop your veg into smaller chunks if you’re having trouble chewing. You could even blend up the stew into a Thanksgiving soup – it might sound weird at first but trust us, there’s a Christmas soup sold in the UK and our writer Emily is addicted to it!

Thanksgiving stew


3. Thanksgiving Smoothie – Sweet And… Potato-y?

Sweet potatoes are one of the best vegetables, hands-down. They’re delicious, they’re inexpensive, they add beautiful rich autumnal color to any dish, and they’re packed full of vitamins, potassium, and dietary fiber. Knowing this, we were pretty excited to discover this seasonal smoothie recipe from UK fresh food fans Abel & Cole. If you’re not already using smoothies to help you stay healthy through treatment, get ready to be obsessed (we’ve got plenty of smoothie recipe ideas to help you get started!)

Top tip: This recipe is a great way to use up any leftover sweet potatoes from your family Thanksgiving dinner. And if you get a taste for it, you could pre-roast batches of sweet potatoes and keep them in the fridge or freezer, to save on smoothie prep time.

Thanksgiving smoothie

Bon appetit, everyone! We hope these recipes help to take some of the stress out of Thanksgiving for you and your family this year. Let us know how it goes, and send us pictures of your Thanksgiving creations at

(And if you have any Thanksgiving food hacks that helped you during treatment, we’d love to hear them – you can share them with us and our community by email, on Facebook or on Twitter.)  Happy Thanksgiving!