If you or someone close to you is undergoing cancer treatment, you may be feeling anxious and somewhat helpless. Wanting to play an active role in your own or a loved one’s recovery is understandable. That’s where Novant Health Cancer Institute’s Healing Kitchens comes in.

Healing Kitchens is a nutrition program available to patients of Novant Health Cancer Institute, as well as their friends and family. The program includes The Culinary Rx Kit — a booklet packed with information and recipes — and a self-paced online course developed by Rebecca Katz, professional chef and author of the award-winning book, “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen.”

Michelle Mintz Newell

“Healing Kitchens is all about eating to support your health, to provide all the nourishment you need from whole foods, herbs and spices,” said Michelle Mintz Newell, registered dietitian and manager of Cancer Wellness and Nutrition at the Novant Health Cancer Institute.

“The program teaches the basics of healthy cooking, to empower people who are less confident in the kitchen to prepare beautiful and nourishing meals.”

Cancer-Fighting Kitchen online course

“The online course opens with several modules in which we talk about the hot topics in cancer and nutrition,” Newell said. “Then, in the main portion of the course, Rebecca Katz covers everything you need to know in the kitchen.”

Modules in the Cancer-Fighting Kitchen course include:

  • Stocking a cancer-fighting pantry.
  • Shopping for produce and animal proteins.
  • Staying organized for efficient cooking.
  • Preparing delicious anti-inflammatory recipes.
  • Dealing with taste changes that often occur as a result of cancer treatments.

The course is divided into accessible, bite-sized videos to make returning to recipes and resources easy, and also offers printable menu plans and shopping lists, resources on recovery and support and sections covering hydration, protein, small meals and snacks.

The Culinary Rx Kit

Healing Kitchens also includes The Culinary Rx Kit — a spiral-bound booklet delivering easy-to-understand information about the dietary needs of people fighting cancer and those with treatment-related side-effects (dehydration, altered taste, lack of appetite, etc.).

Designed with cancer survivors and their caregivers in mind, the Culinary Rx Kit is also useful for people who want to help friends, colleagues, neighbors and others going through cancer treatment by delivering meals.

“So often, people mean to be helpful, but instead of healthy foods they bring less nutritious ‘comfort foods’ — pot pies, casseroles and rich desserts — that people undergoing treatment may not even be able to eat,” Newell said. “But, with a copy of this booklet, they can make truly nourishing soups, entrees and snacks that support healing — which would be a huge help!”

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Targeting cancer survivors’ unique needs

In addition to delivering optimal nutrition, Healing Kitchens was also designed to help cancer patients manage treatment-related side effects (nausea, fatigue, altered taste, etc.) associated with cancer treatments. The online course and Culinary Rx booklet includes many strategies to address these issues, including:

  • Kitchen choreography: By streamlining the shopping and cooking process, kitchen choreography makes meal prep easier and faster — a plus for anyone feeling unwell or fatigued.
  • Customized menu plansThe program includes a variety of menu plans to support individual appetites and needs, from bare minimum and vegetarian plans to a hydrating menu. “Patients undergoing chemotherapy are easily dehydrated, and water may taste horrible or make them nauseous,” Newell said. “So we included different, delicious ways to stay hydrated.”
  • Plentiful proteinCancer treatments kill good cells as well as bad, according to Newell. “The primary nutrient necessary for building new cells and healthy tissues is protein,” she said. “That’s why we really focused on protein, including a list of high-protein options for people who feel better eating more frequent, smaller meals.”

Playing with flavor options

Another popular section focuses on adjusting how foods taste to offset the taste alterations common among people who undergo chemo- or radiation therapy. Known as the FASS method (for Fat, Acid, Salt and Sweet) this tool empowers cancer survivors by giving them control over how their meals taste.

“With just a squirt of lemon juice, they can cut sweetness back a few notches to make a dish palatable,” she said. “And other ingredients, like olive oil, salt or honey, can turn a food that tastes bitter or bland into something delicious.”

The FASS method can also be useful in restaurants, whose kitchens are always stocked with these simple ingredients, making it easy to adjust flavors right at the table.

Sharing good health

Since it was launched in 2019 — supported by a grant from the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation and SherryStrong.org — the Healing Kitchens program has shared more than 5,000 Culinary Rx Kits, and enrolled approximately 900 people in the online course.

And the benefits extend well beyond cancer survivors to the families and friends who also relish the program’s flavorful menus. Excited to try some delicious Healing Kitchens dishes? Below you’ll find three of the program’s most popular recipes.


Chicken tortilla soup

Makes 6 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup peeled and diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup peeled and diced celery
  • 2 teaspoons seeded and diced jalapeño
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup thinly sliced cooked chicken
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 medium avocado, diced for garnish


Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350°F.

In a 6-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, carrot, celery and jalapeño. Sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in garlic, cumin and oregano. Add the tomatoes with their juice and cook 1 minute. Add chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat to low setting. Cover the pot and allow the soup to simmer for 15 minutes.

Place the tortillas in a stack and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch strips. Spread the strips out on a sheet pan and bake 7 to 8 minutes, until crisp. Transfer from oven and set aside.

Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons lime juice and chicken to the simmering soup. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. For the final touch add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lime juice. Taste the soup — you may want another squeeze of lime juice or a pinch of salt.

To serve, ladle soup into individual soup bowls, top with crumbled tortilla strips, cilantro and avocado.

Adapted from RebeccaKatz.com.

Lemony lentil and quinoa salad

Makes 6 servings

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

  • 1/2 cup dried lentils (preferably Le Puy green lentils), rinsed well and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sea salt
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 cup white quinoa, rinsed well in cold water and drained
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 small English cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup diced tomato or halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled organic goat’s milk or sheep’s milk feta cheese (optional)


Put the lentils, 1 clove of garlic, the bay leaf and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a saucepan and add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender — 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat, drain well, and discard the garlic and bay leaf. Spritz with a bit of the lemon juice and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile put the water, the remaining clove of garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a separate saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the quinoa. Decrease heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl, and discard the garlic. Add the cumin, coriander, and cinnamon and fluff with a fork until well combined. Let cool to room temperature.

Put the lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add to the quinoa, along with the lentils, mint and parsley, and fluff with a fork until well combined. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Add the cucumbers and tomatoes and fluff with a fork to combine. Taste — you may want to add a squeeze of lemon juice or a pinch of salt. Sprinkle with feta before serving. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Variation: For a nutritional boost from cruciferous vegetables, add 1 cup of arugula when you add the cucumbers.

Adapted from RebeccaKatz.com.

Herby turkey sliders

Makes 4 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground dark-meat turkey meat (Note: Dark meat is more flavorful, but you may use ground turkey breast instead)
  • Lettuce leaves, for serving
  • Sliced tomato, for serving
  • Sliced avocado, for serving


Put the onion, basil, parsley, tomato paste, garlic, fennel seeds, oregano, lemon zest, salt, red pepper flakes and pepper in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the turkey and gently mix with your hands or a spatula until well combined. Shape the mixture into eight 2-ounce patties (about the size of your palm).

Heat a grill pan to medium heat. Brush with olive oil, then put the patties on the grill and cook until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Cover and cook for 3 more minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F.

Alternatively, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add just enough oil to coat the skillet, then put the patties in the skillet and cook until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Decrease the heat to medium-low, add 1 tablespoon of water, cover and cook for about 3 more minutes to steam the inside.

Serve with lettuce, tomato, and avocado in pita pockets or on slider buns.

Adapted from RebeccaKatz.com.