Holiday Foods for Cancer Patients

With the holiday season upon us, delicious foods abound everywhere. Cancer can sometimes make it hard to enjoy foods that you used to love. However, there are steps you can take to give your body the nutrients and strength it needs. Even though we generally think of holiday foods as unhealthy, there are plenty of healthy holiday foods that you can enjoy without adversely affecting your health — even if you’re in the middle of cancer treatment. Below, we’ve outlined the goodies and baddies of holiday food.  In a nutshell, you will need to find foods that you enjoy that are good for you too!

Healthy foods are usually colorful; add some color to your festivities!

Trim Down for the Holidays

Enjoying holiday food will look somewhat different, but that does not mean less savoury. We advise lowering certain fats and unnatural sugars in your recipes as well as avoiding acidic foods altogether. Reducing and avoiding these foods will help your body function in a more healthy way.

Avoid Saturated and Trans Fats

Trans and saturated fats are the main fats to avoid,regardless of how healthy you feel. You can find these fats in Crisco, animal products such as meat and dairy, and hydrogenated ingredients and foods. Here are some tips to reduce unhealthy fats in your diet:

  1.  When buying your main holiday meat, check its fat concentration. Turkey tends to be much lower in fat, and forgoing the skin on most cooked fowl will help bring unhealthy fat consumption down. 
  2. Minimize fat levels by skimming the tops of off cooled gravies and soups. Cooling most liquids (without stirring them) allows the fat to rise to the top, making it much easier to allow the recipe to remain the same without the same quantity of fat.
  3. Choose to replace foods high in saturated fat with low-fat recipes. We have a few listed at the bottom of this post.

Aim for Healthy Sugars

Sugars are essentially carbohydrates and some are healthier for you than others (really, some sugars can be good for you!). Healthy carbs include fruits such as cranberries and pomegranates: eating these is a healthy way to meet your carb count. Heavily processed carbs, such as store-bought cookies, can be detrimental to your health if you eat too many, although a few here and there are fine. Spread out days between when you have dessert and keep the portions small. Putting space between your treat days will help you enjoy them more when you have them.

Focus on What You Can Eat

The exciting news is that there are plenty of holiday foods you can enjoy! Turkey, low-sodium chicken, sweet potato casserole, green beans, and wheat rolls are just a few of the foods you can enjoy. 

Savor Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats

Unlike saturated fats, Mono- and Poly-unsaturated fats are good fats that help balance your body weight. These fats are found in olive oil, peanut oil, most nuts, avocados, olives, sunflower seeds, corn oil, and most fish. Choosing foods high in unsaturated fats will help your body feel fuller and lower your cholesterol, which in turn reduces your risk for heart disease. This is especially important, since one of the many side effects of cancer treatment can include heart disease. Keeping your body in good condition helps you in your journey to recovery.

As with every meal, remember to keep your portion sizes reasonable and drink water frequently throughout the day. If you have difficulty eating, consider switching your meals to foods with softer textures like yogurt, cooked beans or light soups. Also, if you are finding your appetite is generally lacking, try breaking down your daily meals to smaller meals throughout the day.  It is important to eat well to keep your body strong.

If you ever need help with your diet, know that we offer nutrition counseling services with our Registered Oncology Dietitian — and will help you navigate your diet throughout your recovery. You can learn more about all of our cancer rehabilitation and wellness services here.

Great Alternative Holiday Recipes

Before you go, we want to send you off with some replacement recipes that you can use at any time of the year! We know that eating healthy when you’re undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer treatments can be difficult, and we want it to be easier for you. Below are recipes for traditional holiday dishes that you can use in replacement for other foods.

Don’t want the carbs of mashed potatoes? Try Mashed Cauliflower instead.

Check out this healthy side dish of Sauteed Eggplant with Turmeric and Olives. It pairs nicely with roasted chicken or turkey.

Chocolate Vegan Truffles may just be the bell of all desserts with their healthy ingredients. Remember to stick with small portions even with these healthy treats!

If none of these recipes are appealing to you, no worries! Plenty of recipes tailored to cancer patients are available at Your Cancer Story

Please note: *If you are currently undergoing cancer treatment, it is recommended that you discuss any dietary restrictions with your cancer team.  Some foods or spices could be contraindicated during chemotherapy.