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What Can I Do if My Food Smells and Tastes Bad?

Even if Things Smell and Taste Bad, You Can Get the Nutrition You Need


Updated August 18, 2009

Getting Good Nutrition When Foods Smell and Taste Bad During Treatment

If foods smell and taste funny or bad to you, there are some steps you can take to keep eating well despite this. You can work around these taste changes, called dysguesia, and get the nutrition you need during cancer treatment.

Tips for Eating Well Despite Changes in Smell and Taste

  • Follow the instructions your health care team gives you for best mouth care. Use any mouth care medications or solutions exactly as your doctor or nurse instruct. Use mouth rinses as prescribed.
  • Try to avoid strong food smells, which can kill your appetite and make food taste worse when you do eat. This may mean having others help you prepare food, so you can steer clear of the kitchen.
  • Some people experience a metallic taste when going through cancer treatment. If this happens to you, try using plastic utensils to eat.
  • If you don't have mouth sores, try flavoring your foods with tart flavors such as lemon, citrus, vinegar, and pickled items. Avoid these foods and flavors if you do have mouth sores.
  • Try different temperatures of food to see what works best. For example, you may find cold foods such as yogurt, frozen yogurt, frozen grapes or watermelon, juices and fruit nectars, cottage cheese, and smoothies or shakes work well.
  • If things taste too sweet, try sour and tart flavors, such as a smoothie made with frozen cranberries.
  • Try rinsing your mouth with cool black or green tea, lightly salted water, or baking soda and water. These liquids can "freshen" and cleanse your taste buds before eating.
  • Try flavoring items such as chicken, fish, beef, or pork with savory or sweet spices, such as rosemary, thyme, mint, basil, oregano, or cumin.


The American Cancer Society. Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment. Accessed: January 25, 2009.

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