The holidays are something we all look forward to – the gatherings, the chatter, and of course the food! Most holidays can lead to weight gain due to overeating, less adherence to exercise schedule, traveling to visit family and friends, and stress over the chaos of it all.
Although everyone should watch what they eat and try to maintain regular exercise, it is especially important for people with cancer and those undergoing treatment to pay attention to their food intake and physical fitness.
Treatment options such as chemotherapy may affect the way food tastes, as well as a person’s ability to keep food down and hold valuable nutrients. A person may also lose their appetite altogether. While undergoing cancer treatment, it is important to take care of your body as much as you can. By eating the right foods, you can curb your side effects, increase your energy, and help fight your cancer.
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stresses prevention of weight gain over the holidays as an important step to prevent cancer and improve overall health. But how do you turn down the extra homemade gravy and pumpkin pie loaded with whipped topping, or the dozen of cookies at Christmas, or the much anticipated latkes with sour cream and jelly-filled doughnuts? Here are some tips to help you keep off those holiday pounds and fight cancer.
- Plan your meals and do not skip meals. If you skip one meal, you are more likely to overeat at the next meal, which may lead to weight gain if you continue to skip, or it may make you sick. If you’re undergoing treatment, you need to eat to keep up your energy. It also helps to limit nausea.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. This will help you from binge eating when you first arrive at the holiday gathering, and it can also help reduce cancer treatment side effects. Skip the bacon and eggs, and opt for creamy oatmeal with walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, and nonfat or low fat milk. It will taste like a holiday breakfast!
- Look for small plates and use those instead of larger ones. By using small plates, you won’t be able to fill it up as much, lowering your risk of overeating. Weight gain and obesity are leading risk factors for many chronic diseases, including cancer.
- Opt for the vegetable platter. Grilled vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, eggplant, shiitake and other mushrooms are power houses of many cancer-fighting nutrients. If you’re concerned there won’t be any vegetable platters, use that as your contribution to the party!
It is OK to let loose a little, especially during the holidays, but try to remember to limit overeating foods that are high in fat and sugars, and eat more of hearty, healthy ones. You should always talk with your cancer care team about specific foods you may want to avoid or consume while undergoing cancer treatment.
If you’re interested in understanding more about what diet and nutrition options may benefit you while you undergo treatment for cancer, visit the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center or and make an appointment with the registered, licensed dietitians at Nutritional Services. They specialize in diet and nutrition for those being treated for cancer.