How to Handle Holiday Eating

Food is a large focus during the holiday season. Holiday parties, cookies, turkeys and fixings—so many of our holiday memories are built around food. But what if you are in cancer treatment and finding it difficult to find your appetite, let alone keep food down? Here are some tips to help you get through the winter eating season with less stress.

If you normally host a holiday party, don’t be afraid to let people know you just aren’t up to it this year. If you feel that you will be able to throw your party, try delegating to take some of the stress off. You can ask a friend to help you decorate, or turn the event into a pot-luck so each guest is responsible for bringing a dish. Or you can still host the party, but have a friend or family member take care of all of the food, or even have the event catered. The holidays are about being together, not about who had the fanciest food.

Many people who are in cancer treatment find it difficult to eat the way they used to, and it’s not uncommon for once beloved foods to be suddenly unappealing. If you are having trouble eating this holiday season, try some of these tips:

  • To avoid germs, choose from the more “adult” dishes or the dishes towards the center of the table at a holiday buffet.
  • Eat before you leave the house in case many of the food options at the party don’t appeal to you.
  • Begin with small portions so you don’t get overwhelmed or stuffed.
  • Make sure to check with your doctor whether it is ok for you to drink alcohol on a special occasion.
  • Take advantage of new foods. Cancer can change your tastes, and there may be something you like that you hadn’t previously considered trying.
  • Focus on food safety. If you are in treatment, your immune system is already compromised. Avoid germy situations and eating foods that have sat out for too long.
  • If you suffer from nausea, try chewing mint gum when the smells of holiday foods become overwhelming.
  • Avoid heavy foods like cream sauces that may make you feel too full or sluggish.
  • Keep it simple: if you tend towards an upset stomach, try to stick to basic foods like turkey, potatoes, and noodles.
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