Eat, drink, and be merry is synonymous with the festive period. But what if you are worried about navigating the holiday treat temptations, over indulgence, over-filling your days, and feeling de-railed from your normal healthy routine? Throw cancer treatment and recovery in the mix, and it can be overwhelming. How can you find a balance and allow yourself to relax, enjoy, and feel positive about your food and nutrition choices?
Here are my top 10 tips to help!
1. Don’t label food as good or bad – everything in moderation
Cheese is a good example here. Yes, cheese is high in saturated fat and salt and not something we should it in large amounts, frequently. However, it is also a good source of protein, calcium, and may help to boost our healthy gut bacteria.
Instead of thinking about what you should subtract from your diet, think about what you can ADD to make meals and snacks more nourishing. You can make your cheeseboard more nutritious by adding grapes, celery, slices of apple or pear, and serving with wholegrain crackers, or try making your own healthy crackers like these multi-seed crackers
2. Bring a healthy dish to share
Christmas parties and gatherings typically attract an abundance of high fat and high sugar foods. It can be stressful and unsettling if there is nothing you like or feel comfortable eating.
Take control and bring a healthy dish to share. How about a winter salad, a platter of hummus and vegetables, sweet potato wedges and some savoury dips, or egg muffins containing an array of colourful vegetables. You can guarantee you will have something healthful to eat, and you can supplement with any other choices you like at the party.
3. Replace the crisp bowl with these more nourishing, home-made alternatives:
Popcorn. There are some lovely homemade seasoning ideas here
4. Have a nutritious breakfast
A nutritious, fibre-rich breakfast containing protein and healthy fats will keep you fuller for longer and help to avoid mid-morning snacking on holiday treats. It also helps to keep blood sugar levels stable, as well as stabilising 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 treats out of sight helps to remove the prompt and temptation. If you are genuinely hungry, it is best to snack on something nourishing and energising like a banana and a handful of nuts/seeds, apple wedges paired with cottage cheese, hummus with oatcakes.
6. Keep moving
Sedentary activities such as watching TV can mean your activity levels take a nose dive 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 includes lean protein, slow-release carbohydrates, some healthy fats, and an abundance of vegetables. Where we typically go ‘wrong’ is too many carbs. Go steady with the roast potatoes. Instead, try a root veg mash e.g., carrot and swede with a drizzle of olive oil, roasted vegetables, or root veg wedges such as celeriac and beetroot. Then add your green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.
8. Practice mindful eating
Take time over your meals, minimise distractions, and chew thoroughly. This will allow you to recognise when you are full and can help to prevent overeating. If you have room for seconds, finishing up the veggies will be best for your waistline!
9. Incorporate moments of calm
Keeping up with the demands of the festive season can be stressful. If you are going through cancer treatment or are in recovery, it is more important than ever to pace your activities and be compassionate with yourself. Plan your days and actively block time for moments of calm, for example, a walk in nature, meditation or breathing exercises, a soak in the bath, or relaxing with your favourite book. Taking time for yourself will enable you to be present and your best around others.
10. Put things into perspective and ditch the guilt
The occasional day of overindulgence will not ‘undo’ all your hard work, or make a significant difference to your long-term, overall health. It’s your daily habits that matter most. If you haven’t eaten as healthily as you wanted to, ditch the guilt, and don’t dwell on it. This simply creates further stress on the body and can lead you into an 'all or nothing' mentality. Instead, recommit to your wellbeing goals, and move forward.
If you would like support and encouragement to put these 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