What to Eat During Cancer Treatment: Mini Shepherd’s Pies

What to Eat During Cancer Treatment: Mini Shepherd’s Pies

Cancer treatments are designed to kill cancer cells. But these treatments can also damage healthy cells. Damage to healthy cells can cause side effects, and some of these side effects can lead to eating problems such as appetite loss, changes in taste or smell, nausea and weight loss.

Because of these side effects, many patients undergoing cancer treatment adjust their diets and cooking habits. The American Cancer Society, as well as numerous cancer institutes, chefs and culinary resources, have adapted favorite recipes to meet the needs of cancer patients undergoing treatment.

This mini shepherd’s pies recipe from the American Cancer Society‘s What to Eat During Cancer Treatment and published by USA Today addresses the common cancer symptoms of diarrhea, sore mouth and unintentional weight loss. However, at 380 calories per pie, they can fit into the diet of other family members as well.

These little pies are a meal unto themselves, providing meat, potatoes, and vegetables all in one bite. Mildly seasoned ground beef is topped with a mashed potato “crust” and baked in individual portions. Keep extras in the fridge to heat up during the week. To save time, you can use leftover mashed potatoes (about 2 cups’ worth) or buy premade mashed potatoes. While this recipe contains peas, the small amount should not aggravate diarrhea.

You will need four ramekins or oven-safe teacups for this recipe.


  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (if you’re no longer having diarrhea, there’s no need to peel the potatoes and lose their nutrients, just scrub well).
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons low-fat milk
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 small (or 1/2 large) onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots mixture


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Fill a large saucepan with enough water to cover the potatoes by an inch or more and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain and return to the pan. Add the butter and 2 tablespoons of the milk and mash until soft and creamy, adding more milk if necessary. Season with salt.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. Sauté the ground beef and onion for 6 to 8 minutes, or until meat is cooked through, stirring frequently to break up the meat. Drain if needed. Add the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and stir well to combine. Add the peas and carrots and stir well to combine.
  4. Divide meat mixture evenly between four (1-cup) ramekins or oven-safe teacups. Top with about ½ cup mashed potato, spreading to cover the meat. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

*Shepherd’s pie can be baked in a larger dish for family-style eating. An 8-by-8-inch pan or round casserole dish should suffice. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are golden.

Nutritional information:

Per serving (1 pie)
Calories: 380
Total fat: 17 g
Total carbohydrate: 30 g
Dietary fiber: 3 g
Sugars: 7 g
Protein: 26 g
Sodium: 390 mg

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