What to Eat This Season: A Guide for Cancer Patients at Holiday Parties

It’s that time of year again: Fat turkeys stuffed with a who-knows-what’s-in-there secret family recipe. Yes, the once-a-year treats, mixed with holiday fun, family traditions, Hallmark movies and crazy food combinations have arrived.

However the season isn’t all fun and games for cancer patients, who may dread the thought of all that food or even the smell of something as bland as an unbuttered croissant roll.

Here’s how to get through the holidays and still keep the season merry and bright:

Have your strategy ready: Prepare ahead so you can keep yourself well. If you know Aunt Bess won’t rest until you taste her famous anchovy dip with her renown five-spice crackers, ask a trusted friend to make up your plate sans anchovy, or avoid conflict with Bess all together by dabbing a smidgen on your plate and chasing it around with your fork the way third graders do to avoid eating kale. Be creative.

The takeaway:  Don’t make yourself sick just to meet someone else’s expectations.

MORE: Four topics to discuss with your doctor after a cancer diagnosis

Think Small
During cancer treatment, food can be down right off-putting, but your body needs nutrition. To strike a balance, try giving yourself very small portions. While going back for more is always an option, starting with little samples can help you stay in control of your situation while giving your body the fuel it needs. But what if someone fills your plate like a lumberjack heading to the forest? No worries. You get to decide what you choose to enjoy.

The takeaway: The only one who has to clean your plate is the person stuck with the dishes.

About that smell…
Sometimes you don’t have to taste food for it to make you feel nauseous – just the smell of it can do the trick. If this is the case, keep your distance from the buffet table, and seasonal delights won’t turn into seasonal nightmares. Approach kitchens and dining rooms cautiously, or just keep hogging the Lazy-Boy lounger in the family room while everyone else argues over the last slice of pie. And if you get a whiff of something that doesn’t agree with you? Move to a different spot, ask someone to close the kitchen door, or turn on a fan.

The takeaway:  A breath of fresh air restores body and soul.

Bring Your Own
During chemo, tastes can change. Maybe your favorite vegetable was actually cake, but now you can’t bear it.

Green beans with mushroom soup; yams with marshmallows, pineapple and rum; sour cream herring; limburger cheese; oysters in the stuffing — bring them all on…or don’t. If weird holiday food combinations don’t feel quite right this year, take charge.

Sometimes crackers are what taste good, so bring some to your next party. Cancer patients often find that candied ginger calms the stomach. Others say that sparkling beverages like lemon-lime soda or tonic water make them feel better. If it fits in a baggie, Tupperware or your purse, bring it with no apologies.

The takeaway: It’s about what’s in your heart, not what’s on your plate.

MORE: Eight important things to know about mammograms 

Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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