Living with cancer blog

Put healthy foods in your holiday eating plans

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. December 22, 2009

Jacalyn See is a clinical dietitian at Mayo Clinic. She shares tips on how to eat healthy during the holidays.

Food is an essential part of any celebration, and the holidays bring with them a smorgasbord of options. We often think of holiday food as rich and fattening and perhaps not very good for us. But you can find ways to eat healthy by adding more "cancer-blocking" foods into festivities. The below foods are good sources of antioxidants, phytonutrients, omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and/or other nutrients known to help prevent cancer:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Winter squash
  • Cranberries
  • Dried fruit
  • Dark chocolate
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Nuts
  • Wild rice
  • Popcorn
  • Clementines and other citrus fruits

You can incorporate these and other healthy foods in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Serve sweet potatoes or winter squash as a side dish in place of white potatoes. Deep orange vegetables are loaded with beta carotene.
  • Make pumpkin or cranberry bread. Pumpkin contains more beta carotene than any other food, and cranberries contain antioxidants.
  • Serve cranberry relish or sauce as a condiment or side dish; use cranberry juice in the holiday party punch.
  • Give or treat yourself to a box of clementines as a gift.
  • Snack on popcorn. Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain?
  • Wild rice is also a whole grain. Use it for soups, stuffing or as a side dish.
  • Make a dip out of smoked salmon.
  • Serve shrimp along with raw vegetables. Don't forget the cocktail sauce and salsa. Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, vitamin C and potassium.
  • Add dried fruits and nuts to salads.
  • Consider making dips made from legumes, such as hummus or black bean dip, which are good sources of fiber and other phytonutrients.
  • Make a snack mix out of dried cranberries, almonds and dark chocolate bits. All nuts are high in antioxidants, protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
  • Use dark chocolate and walnuts in baked goods. Dark chocolate has more antioxidants (known as flavonols or phenols) than milk chocolate.

And don't think you have to avoid sweets. Contrary to popular belief, sugar doesn't feed cancer. But it can contribute to unwanted and unnecessary calories, so you may want to practice moderation.

I hope these suggestions got your imaginations running. Make sure to check out our healthy holiday recipes. And if you have other hints for healthy holiday eating or meal planning, or a favorite recipe or two, please share. Just don't forget to add the bake time and temperature.

Happy holidays!

Jaci See

With

Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.

16 Comments Posted

Dec. 22, 2009