Cancer Nutrition Tips for a Healthy Holiday

Cancer Nutrition Tips for Healthy Holidays

The holidays are an enjoyable season for spending time with family and friends.  Eating healthy during this time can be challenging but try to stay on track!

Tips that will help you make nutritious choices:

1. Don’t skip meals.

Skipping meals to save calories for the “big” meal will not be beneficial in the long run.  By skipping meals, you are more likely to overeat and snack because of being ravenous.   Eat smaller meals than usual or have healthy snacks to keep your appetite curbed.

2. Make a dish.

If you are unsure what foods at the meal will be suitable for your meal plan, offer to bring a dish that you will enjoy as will others.

3. Cheat a little.

It isn’t really “cheating” it is enjoying life.  Choose what special holiday items you want to enjoy and stick to your list and limit the serving size.   No food needs to be on the naughty list.

4. Don’t forget the fruits and vegetables.

Continue to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables at your holiday meals.

5. Watch the drinks.

Sugary drinks such as pop, punch, sweet tea contribute calories to your diet without nutrition.  Choose water or unsweetened beverages.  Alcohol can also increase your calorie intake – especially sweet mixed drinks.  If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men.

6. Focus on family/friends.

Not all holiday gatherings need to be centered around food.  Plan an activity to do together instead.

7. Don’t overeat.

Eat slowly, put your fork down between bites, drink plenty of water, stop eating before you are stuffed.

8. Don’t feel guilty.

If you made poor choices or overate at the holiday meal, it’s okay. Start right back with your next meal and increase your activity.

How to save some calories at the Holiday meal:

  • Skip the gravy on the turkey and potatoes.
  • Don’t butter items that may have already been buttered such as corn or green beans.
  • If choosing a sweet dessert, then cut back on bread and potatoes.
  • Have apple or pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie.
  • Take standard portions, don’t overfill your plate. There will be leftovers to eat at another meal.
  • Start your plate off with vegetables.
  • Water is your best drink.
  • Skip the cheese platter.

Incorporating the Mediterranean Diet into the Holidays:

1. Serve Mediterranean Dips.

Instead of heavy cheese dips rich in saturated fats start with some equally delicious Mediterranean dips. The yogurt based garlic dip tzatziki,  these easy recipes are rich in antioxidants and the good fats and they can be made the day before. Accompany them with some thin breadsticks or veggies.

Tzatziki Dip


  • 8 ounces full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium cucumber (5-6 inches)
  • Fresh dill


  1. Crush the garlic with a little bit of salt and pepper.
  2. Peel the cucumber and grate. Squeeze well to get rid of water.
  3. Whip the yogurt in a bowl and then add the garlic paste, mixing well and then add the cucumber and mix again.
  4. Start adding small amounts of olive oil alternating with the vinegar while mixing.
  5. Add about 2 teaspoons fresh dill and mix well.
  6. Let it sit at least an hour in the refrigerator before serving.

2. Cook with Olive Oil and Greek Yogurt.

Use olive oil and Greek style yogurt for your cooking. When making mashed (regular or sweet) potatoes use olive oil and Greek style yogurt instead of butter and cream.

3. Add a Large Salad.

While there are plenty of side dishes during holiday dinners, most of them cooked and starchy. Add a large salad using seasonal vegetables for a fresh taste and choose a light dressing.

4. Choose Fruit for Dessert.

Yes, you still need to serve traditional dessert such as cookies and pie but add a fruit platter as well.

How to be involved in the Holiday plans without putting your health at risk:

Don’t feel pressured to continue traditions if you are not feeling well or are struggling with fatigue.

Party Planning.

Choose what gatherings are the most meaningful to you and attend those.

If you usually host a holiday gathering but are not up to it, share the work with others.  Ask everyone to bring a dish or ask someone else to host.

If invited to a gathering but are struggling with side effects of cancer treatment such as nausea, taste changes, and diarrhea, ask the host what food is planned for the meal.  If you are concerned about not being to eat or not tolerating the meal- maybe you can come later for some socializing.

Ask the host if they mind if you bring a few dishes that you can eat with the side effects you are experiencing.

Eat at home throughout the day of the holiday gathering.  Keep your side effects controlled.

Communicate with your medical team. Check your calendar to see what treatments or appointments you have during the holiday season. You may find that your health care professionals will try to work with your treatment schedule to facilitate your holiday plans. Informing your doctor about holiday plans can also help provide guidance and support in managing side effects appropriately.

Day of the Party.

Dish your own plate to choose foods that are tolerated and portions that are appropriate.

If your stomach is upset or sensitive, choose plain foods.  Avoid eating heavy cream sauces, gravy, mayonnaise-based foods.  Try some plain meat, vegetables, bread, or potatoes.

If the smell of food is bothering you, try to stay out of the kitchen while food is being prepares, open window or eat outside if possible.   Hot foods give off more smell, let the food cool a bit so the steam doesn’t go into your face.

Be aware of food safety if you have a compromised immune system.  If the food is being served in a buffet style, try to go through the line first.  Don’t eat hot/cold foods that have been sitting out.  Foods kept out of safe temperatures could cause food-borne illness.

It is a good idea to always avoid sushi, deviled eggs, mayonnaise-based salads, and homemade eggnog.  Don’t eat out of bowls of snacks/chips where many hands have been.

Be cautious with meal offerings coming from outside the home and make sure you trust where they are coming from.


We hope you found this helpful. Happy Holidays & be sure to follow @4CancerWellness on social media for more tips!