Tips For Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner When You Have Cancer
When you have cancer, Thanksgiving and other holiday meals can feel more about other people and less about what is good for you.
You might be more interested in keeping up with your family’s favorite Thanksgiving traditions even if you are exhausted from cancer treatment. It can be hard to let go of setting an elaborate thanksgiving table, decorating the house, or hosting dozens of family members when you have been doing so for years.
Many cancer patients feel strongly about making a traditional Thanksgiving meal and hosting the family as they have been doing since before their cancer diagnosis, even if seems like a daunting task.
Tables piled with comfort food and time with friends and family can boost the spirits of many cancer patients and make the holiday season extra special. Even if they can’t eat or have little appetite, these are things that can make cancer patients feel more “normal” at a time when they are facing tremendous uncertainty about their health and future.
But, it might be wise to enjoy the holiday season with some moderations to ensure you don’t overdo it and put your physical (and emotional) health in jeopardy. A healthy Thanksgiving meal and a little help from your friends or family can go a long way toward making your holiday safe and satisfying!
Cooking a Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner That Can Benefit Everyone
It is no secret that we all love traditional Thanksgiving food, especially those side dishes. Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and apple pie are part of even the most basic holiday table. Add to these delicious foods some alcoholic beverages or apple cider, and the typical meal does not exactly scream “healthy!”
These foods are often made with lots of butter, sugar, and salt, none of which might be good for you or anyone else coming to your holiday table. If you are a cancer patient, even if it is hard for you to eat, you might want to modify your meal so that everyone who partakes can enjoy some health benefits.
Here are a few tips for cooking a healthier and delicious dinner that can benefit everyone this turkey day.
- Skip the butter in savory recipes and opt for olive oil instead.
- Use salt-free seasonings and salt-free ingredients like broth as much as possible.
- Use plenty of fresh herbs to flavor food instead of salt
- Consider using fresh fruit in your cranberry sauce recipe instead of canned or dried.
- Stick to turkey as your main course-tryptophan can help boost the immune system.
- Serve a variety of fresh vegetables. You can also use them in combination or as substitutes for potatoes. For example, cauliflower and squash are excellent subs for mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Serve foods that have plenty of vitamin c, beta carotene, and other healthy nutrients.
- Serve fresh fruit for dessert.
- Consider healthy sugar alternatives for use in desserts and other recipes.
- Look for recipes that allow you to sneak in vegetables when they might not be expected.
- You can get even get creative and create an entire Thanksgiving dinner that focuses on cancer prevention.
If you are getting cancer treatment, your family will likely want to help prepare the meal or bring dishes to make things easier for you. If guests want to bring a dish, let them help. Be sure to share your preferences with them and ask them to bring foods that comply with your healthier thanksgiving goals.
People With Cancer Should Be Mindful of Their Health During The Holidays
Enjoying Thanksgiving is important. When you have cancer, spending Thanksgiving with people you love can evoke feelings of comfort and gratitude. But, cancer patients must also be mindful of their health during the holidays.
Chemo and radiation can make you feel bloated, nauseous, give you mouth sores and dry mouth. These side effects can make eating the last thing on your mind. You don’t want to spend your holiday in discomfort.
You also have to be mindful of your immune system, which might be compromised, making you susceptible to all sorts of illnesses and infections.
The following tips might help you enjoy a safe and relaxing Thanksgiving:
- Follow food safety protocols.
- Keep a safe distance from anyone sneezing or coughing.
- Follow recommended Covid-19 safety precautions.
- Avoid alcohol
- Consider taking anti-nausea medications if smelling or eating tend to make you feel ill.
- Stay hydrated
- Share cooking duties
- Focus on what you can do and let others fill in and do what you can’t (everyone likes to help on the holidays-let them!)
- Manage your expectations by understanding your limits. If you are tired, rest. If your appetite is not strong, eat smaller portions of what you can tolerate and pass on the rest.
- Stay comfortable – you don’t have to get dressed up to have a wonderful holiday.
- Enjoy yourself. Give yourself a day off from feeling like a cancer patient.
Consider speaking to your doctor about whether it is safe to indulge or how far to push yourself if you are feeling up to it. Likely, the more you can get your mind off treatment and dig into holiday fun, the more meaningful this Thanksgiving will be.
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