With cancer comes a fresh awareness of food and its effect on our health. This isn’t about weight loss. This is all about ensuring that our immune system is working at full capacity so our body can start healing.
The holidays appear to present a challenge in this respect. The excess, and of course the sugary treats, wine and other temptations that under ordinary conditions wouldn’t be so accessible are now at every occasion or household dinner. Here are some strategies I’ve found useful for surfing the holiday season with my health in mind.
Know what foods will benefit you. You’ll locate them one of the choices if you look carefully. Then you can indulge without guilt. Beans – look for quite tasty bean salads. Beans have a great deal of fibre that will help fill you up with less volume and thereby control your appetite. Berries – fresh fruit is an exceptional option. They are high in Vitamin C in addition to fibre. Cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts – members of the cruciferous vegetables.
Almost every Christmas dinner I’ve attended has at least one of those offerings, particularly Brussels sprouts. They were not my favorite but through time, I’ve had them served in ways which were truly delicious. So I’m a convert. Dark leafy vegetables (i.e. spinach, kale, dark lettuces) – believe salads. Kale is a vegetable not lots of individuals eat. I’ve grown to love it added to skillet, lightly heated up with chopped potatoes, kale chips, tossed into soups.
When eating the cakes, be conscious of the dressings. Vinegar and oil is best, but if not available, try to steer clear of the creamy dressings. Garlic – well this might not be a fantastic alternative at an event, but often mashed potatoes are spiked with garlic. Very tasty. Onions fall into this category as do chives. Ensure that you have any gum or breath freshener available. Garlic, onions and chives are potent and vacation time is social.
Grapes and grape juice – wine and cheese buffets most often have grapes. You can get your share of resveratrol like that. Wine is grape based as well but does not have as much of this fantastic ingredient resveratrol. Enjoy a glass – it is the holidays. Just do not overdo it.
Green tea – a excellent alternative in place of coffee. Lots of antioxidants and shown to impede cancer development, especially colon, prostate and breast cancers. Be aware that it does contain caffeine. Depending upon the time of day, you may want to take into account an herbal tea or just plain old hot water. Sometimes I put a little slice of ginger from the hot water – or a piece of lemon. Tomatoes – think salads, soups – also ketchup and tomato sauces. Processing tomatoes brings more out of the lycopene content.
- Have a fast snack of healthy foods before heading out to the occasion. This way, you aren’t hungry and better able to make good decisions. I also have discovered at corporate events, particularly the buffet style, it is tough to eat and converse, particularly standing up. I’m a slow eater, so using a little something to eat before I go is an exceptional strategy to get enough to eat without sacrificing the social part of the equation.
- If meat is served at a dinner and you’ve chosen not to eat meat, just eat the veggies and bread/grains. A legitimate host/hostess will understand. And, you will still have enough to satisfy your appetite and needed nutrients. As a vegan, I’ve learned to navigate this potential social minefield. Occasionally, I’ll have a token bit of meat – quite token – and as mentioned, load up on the veggies.
- If you’re the host/hostess, a large choice of vegetables, grains, and meat (even if you don’t eat meat) will make everybody happy. My family wouldn’t be thrilled to be invited to a vegan turkey dinner. They’d probably disown me. But that does not mean I must eat what I serve.
- Ensure to have enough sleep. When I’m sleep deprived is usually when my defenses are down and I gravitate to those foods I know are not great for me. I then get into a bad cycle of up and down energy spikes. I know it’s hard over the holidays with the additional demands on our time, but the body heals during the sleep cycle. Even if you must catch a couple of cat naps during the day – or better still, meditation for five minutes – you may avoid this pitfall.
- If the fridge beckons with leftovers which are off limits for you, prepare a container of fresh veggies – i.e. carrots, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, tomatoes. Keep them handy in the refrigerator. These can be your go-to snacks. I know they are not always as attractive as some of the other goodies, but you’ll certainly feel a lot better snacking on these. Also homemade soups from the leftover vegetables with extra beans and leafy greens or Swiss chard tossed in are extremely tasty and nourishing, especially with a fresh salad and wholegrain bread. Could be a excellent dinner when time is hurried.
- Exercise – workout for a long walk. Get some fresh air. The walk with energize you; provide you additional oxygen that cancer hates and burn off some extra calories if weight gain is the issue. A walk will also take you away from the food. I found that when I was exercising and fit, making healthful food choices was much simpler. My body did not crave the foods which weren’t great for me, so I was not so easily tempted. Walking is also a fantastic outing to share with family or friends over the holidays.
- Take the time to search for new recipes. If you prefer to cook, this can be fun. If not, then locate resources of homemade prepared foods in local markets. Sometimes there just is not time and having healthy choices at hand are really priceless. There are even private chefs and catering services which could do the honors. Just be certain about your requirements.
- If dinner is in a restaurant as some family traditions go, I’ve discovered I can alter a dish with a conversation with the server. Most restaurants are open to adapting a meal to suit their clientele. Especially now that I eat the vegan way, restaurant menu choices are more limited. However, I have discovered that there’s usually something on the menu I will eat or adapt to my needs.
- And when all else fails, eat what is there, however, go back on the wagon in the days after. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Holidays are for household, sharing, and being thankful. Adding another stress is just as bad as eating unwisely, unless of course you get a violent or nasty reaction to particular foods. That will mean being sick or very uneasy, so definitely not a good idea to’go with the flow’. Just like anything, common sense must play in the equation.
Life isn’t perfect. Do the best you can with the situation at hand. Enjoy your holiday. Be thankful, even if eating and socializing at a time when you’re going through therapy is difficult. I recall that time since I had my first chemotherapy treatment three times before Christmas. I was in no shape on Christmas Day to do anything. My family knew so we celebrated a couple of days later when I felt better. It was doable. If you have additional thoughts to share with us, please leave your comments. We will all benefit.