As we deck the halls and prepare to gather with those we love, a festive and abundant meal will most likely be part of celebration plans. As a cancer patient or the loved one thereof, it’s best to be mindful of and intentional about the foods we eat and serve. Those with cancer can still use nutrition as a powerful tool for wellbeing even during the Holidays. While family members or friends of cancer patients have the opportunity to show support and be strong allies in providing a nourishing and welcoming environment.
What to Eat
For the cancer patient attending a Holiday function, it’s always important to use any meal as an opportunity to add nourishment and support to your digestive system. Cancer treatments weaken the body as they fight the disease. Many patients experience weight loss and the taste of foods is often altered by chemotherapy drugs. It’s important to know what to choose and how to eat when away from the comforts of your own home. Consider some of these easy ideas to make your Holiday gathering experience positively delicious:
- Eat before you go. Where this may mean you’ve less appetite at the gathering, you will not go hungry or feel weak should you arrive to discover a lack of options.
- Pack for your journey. In your purse or carry bag, bring a few small preferred snacks. A serving of nuts, berries, trail mix or even your preferred pre-made protein shake can bring comfort and sustenance.
- Your taste buds may make former favorites seem unfamiliar—to salty or sweet. Crystal Langlois of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America suggests adding such neutralizers as honey or agave nectar, lemon or lime juice.
- Be aware of possible spoilage. With a weakened immune response system, it’s best to avoid foods at risk of “turning,” like sushi, deviled eggs, and homemade eggnog. If you aren’t sure how long a food has been sitting out, ask your host. Consider instead foods like crackers, chips and salsa, nuts and cookies since they can sit out longer.
- Be gentle with yourself. Enjoying a warm bowl of soup is a nutrient rich option.
Hosting with Care
When hosting a gathering whose guests will include cancer patients, consider these options:
- Most cancer patients will readily inform of particular needs or aversions so that the host is sure to include their favorites or avoid their revulsions. But show the courtesy of initiating a discreet inquiry.
- Choose healthier ingredient alternatives. For that soup, consider swapping evaporated skim milk for cream, or for that pie, perhaps applesauce and canola oil rather than butter.
- Pour on the pomegranates which, studies have shown, contain at least six compounds that may prevent breast cancer growth by blocking aromatase, an enzyme that plays a key role in most forms of breast cancers.
In short, be cognizant of and incorporate optimal ingredients and foods when preparing Holiday meals among loved ones—cancer patients and otherwise.