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10 Cancer Nutrition Tips for a Healthier Christmas

Updated: Dec 21, 2023


Christmas dinner table with candles and decorations

Navigating the festive season often feels like a balancing act, especially when concerns about overindulgence, maintaining a healthy routine, and the added complexity of managing cancer treatment or recovery come into play. How do you find balance amid the holiday temptations while allowing yourself to relax and enjoy the season, particularly when it comes to food and nutrition choices?


Here are my top 10 tips to help you strike a balance!

 

1. Embrace moderation, not labels

Avoid categorising food as strictly "good" or "bad." Take cheese, for example. While it contains higher levels of saturated fat and salt, it also a valuable source of protein, calcium, and can aid in promoting a healthy gut flora.

 

Instead of focusing on what to remove from your diet, think about what you can ADD to enrich your meals and snacks. Elevate your cheeseboard's nutritional value by pairing it with grapes, celery, apple, or pear slices, alongside wholegrain crackers. For an added health boost, experiment with making your own nutritious crackers, such as these multi-seed crackers.


2. Contribute health to the festivities

Christmas gatherings typically include tempting spreads laden with high fat and high sugar foods. It can be disconcerting when there is nothing you enjoy or feel comfortable eating.

 

Take control by contributing a nourishing dish to share. Consider a vibrant winter salad, vegetable platter with hummus, sweet potato wedges paired with savoury dips, or egg muffins filled with a medley of colourful vegetables. This ensures you will have something wholesome to enjoy, and you can supplement with any other choices you like at the gathering.


3. Replace the crisp bowl with these more nourishing, home-made alternatives:


4. Start with a nutrient-packed breakfast

Kickstarting your day with a fibre-rich breakfast containing protein and healthy fats keeps you fuller for longer, reducing the temptation for mid-morning treats. It also helps to keep blood sugar levels steady and stabilises energy levels. Try porridge made with old-fashioned oats topped with any combination of nuts, seeds, and berries. Or scrambled eggs with wholegrain toast and avocado, or shakshuka.


5. Out of sight out of mind – snack wisely

During the holiday season it is common to have treats like sweets, chocolates, and biscuits ‘on display’ and readily available. When treats are easy to access, you are more likely to snack unnecessarily. Keeping tempting treats out of sight helps to remove the prompt and temptation. If you are genuinely hungry, it is ideal to snack on nourishing options like a banana and a handful of nuts/seeds, apple wedges paired with cottage cheese, or hummus with oatcakes. 


6. Keep moving

Sedentary activities such as watching TV can mean your activity levels take a nosedive over the holidays. If this is coupled with eating more than you typically would, this can contribute to weight gain. Incorporating some form of physical activity in the morning is a good idea as it prioritises exercise before the day runs away with you. Exposure to morning light is particularly beneficial in regulating our circadian rhythms, our natural body-clock, helping to promote healthy sleep patterns. Walks with family or friends are a great way to spend time together, keep fit, and help to prevent holiday weight gain.


7. The balance on the plate

An ideal Christmas dinner plate emphasises lean protein, slow-release carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a generous array of vegetables. Where we typically go ‘wrong’ is too many carbs. Go steady with the roast potatoes. Instead, consider alternatives like a root vegetable mash e.g. a blend of carrot and swede drizzled with olive oil, or explore roasted vegetables and root veg wedges such as celeriac and beetroot. Enrich your plate further with the addition of green leafy vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.


8. Practice mindful eating

Take time over your meals, minimise distractions, and chew your food thoroughly. This allows you to recognise when you are full and helps prevent overeating. If you're considering seconds, prioritising finishing up your veggies can leave you feeling more satisfied, making room for a delightful dessert if you choose!


9. Incorporate moments of calm

Balancing the demands of the festive season can be challenging for anyone. If you are undergoing cancer treatment or in recovery, it is crucial to pace your activities and cultivate self-compassion. Organise your days intentionally, allocating time for moments of calm, such as a walk in nature, meditation or breathing exercises, a soak in the bath, or relaxing with your favourite book. Carving out this personal time isn't just about recharging—it's about fostering your ability to be fully present and at your best when sharing moments with others.


10. Put things into perspective and let go of guilt

Occasional indulgences won’t reverse your progress or significantly impact your long-term health. It’s your consistent daily habits that matter most. If you find yourself deviating from your ideal eating habits, let go of any guilt and avoid dwelling on it. Guilt only adds unnecessary stress and can foster an "all or nothing" mindset. Instead, reaffirm your commitment to your well-being goals and move forward positively.


If you would like support and encouragement to put these healthier Christmas recommendations and more into practice, please get in touch with us at The Cancer Dietitian for a consultation. I would be delighted to help you.

T: 020 8064 2865

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