Written by Lori Bumbaco, MS, RDN, CSO, LDN, Oncology Dietitian
The holidays are a special time of year to celebrate and often include traditions with food. The mainstay of nutrition advice is “balance and moderation”, and this can apply to eating during the holidays as well. We do not need to give up our favorite food any time of the year, but instead savoring food can be a chance for us to connect over a delicious meal. Including nourishing choices regularly within holiday celebrations can support our wellness and give us the nutrients we need.
There are some strategies to keep in mind if you wish to continue to eat a balanced, cancer-protective diet year-round, including the holidays. Using any or all of these strategies can help us feel in charge of our health and better able to navigate eating during this time of year.
Begin the day with intention. Often the holidays create stress because of social events, parties, and changes to our normal eating habits. We can begin each day with a meal that serves a purpose to equip us with fuel and nutrients to manage the day. The key components to a meal with staying power are fiber and protein. If our first meal contains a source of fiber and protein from whole sources, we can guarantee a nourishing meal to set the stage for the rest of the day. Some examples include oats with pumpkin seeds and berries, or yogurt with pumpkin puree and cinnamon. Be sure to check out the different variations of toast in this newsletter to try for yourself!
Listen to your body. Intuitive eating means that we trust our body to tell us when it is time to eat and when we’ve had enough. It requires mindfulness so that we minimize any other cues or triggers that might otherwise trick us into eating. Mindful eating is a process-oriented, not outcome-driven behavior. We can focus on savoring food rather than restricting ourselves. When applying mindful eating, we can use all senses to appreciate the smell, flavor, texture, sounds, and more when eating. We can assess the pace to eat at a comfortable pace, neither too fast nor too slow. This allows us to notice hunger cues. We can observe bite size. Bites of food that are too large or too small may detract from our ability to feel satisfied. When eating, we can pause to return to our breath and help us communicate with our bodies. Lastly, we can embrace the moment. We will never have this bite, this meal, or this moment ever again.
Joyful movement. What does fitness mean to you? Do you think that you have to go to the gym because you ate too much for dinner last night? Do you have a hard time doing what you’re “supposed” to do? Joyful movement takes the approach that there is no right or wrong way to move our bodies. Instead, we can celebrate how powerful we are by choosing to move our bodies in ways that make us happy. Maybe you like to dance or jump on a trampoline, or maybe you like to walk and listen to a podcast or prefer activity by playing with your grandchildren. Joyful movement benefits our mind and body, which is crucial during the holiday season.
Include a new or favorite fruit or vegetable. The late fall and early winter means a change to our options for fruit and vegetables. The options provide comforting flavor and a boatload of nutrients to highlight in holiday cooking. From Brussels Sprouts to sweet potatoes to pears to pumpkin, there are a variety of ways to celebrate these cancer fighters! Our newsletter gives you just a few to try.
Stay Hydrated. The cooler weather does not mean that we need less water. Use prompts to remind yourself that water is vital for delivering oxygen, nutrients, and lubrication to our joints. Water is essential to allow our senses to function optimally, to promote our mood and energy, and to support productivity. Rely on urine color to determine if you are hydrated, because the color of pale yellow indicates a state of hydration. The holidays are also a time when individuals may consume more alcohol than normal. Consider trying a “mocktail” recipe to set a new trend that allows you to enjoy social events while enjoying a hydrating beverage also.
The holidays are a time of year to celebrate and gather with loved ones. We have the chance to decide how we wish to spend that time and create lasting memories. Planning to include nourishing choices and practicing mindful eating might help you feel optimally nourished to spend that time the best way possible. Using some of the strategies listed are simple ways to pursue cancer protection all year long, even during the holidays.