Is it really true people gain weight during the holiday season?

Well, unfortunately, it is true, but don’t fret, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, I’ll get to that soon.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms people gain weight during the holiday season. Data were collected on approximately 3000 people in the US, Japan and Germany from August 1, 2012 – July 31, 2013. The participants’ weight increased within 10 days after Christmas in all three countries. The time period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s tends to be problematic when it comes to weight gain, as the season brings about high-calorie dishes, lots of parties and an overall abundance of food. Since holiday weight gain is real, the need to try and incorporate healthy eating this time of year is essential.

For those undergoing cancer treatment, the undesirable side effects may call for increased calories and protein, but for some patients, such as those who were overweight prior to diagnosis or those who gain weight during treatment, just focusing on a healthy diet is needed. It is important to be mindful of eating healthfully, to keep your body in tip top shape, and to reduce the risk of not only cancer, but also other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Remember I promised you earlier there is a light at the end of the tunnel? Well, the good news is by actively taking steps towards a healthier diet and lifestyle, you’re helping to put the odds in your favor to prevent recurrence. Also, including nutrient-dense foods helps strengthen your muscles and immune system and combat the unpleasant side effects of cancer treatment. All this can make a huge difference in a patients’ quality of life.

More good news

The fall/winter season is a wonderful opportunity to incorporate a plethora of cancer-fighting foods into your holiday food repertoire. It can actually become a festival of flavors. Many seasonal foods are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients, such as flavonoids and carotenes, and if prepared in healthful ways, will provide nutrients without putting on extra pounds. Nutritious can be delicious! Incorporating foods such as apples, pears, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin and winter squash, pomegranate, cranberries, corn, sweet potatoes, and more make for some yummy cancer fighting dishes!

 

Here are some tips to up the health-ante without sacrificing enjoyment:

  • Start with healthy appetizers before the meal (pumpkin granola, veggies with a non-sour-cream based dip like greek yogurt or refried beans).
  • Enjoy fresh berry cranberry sauce instead of canned.
  • Add vegetable purees (butternut squash, pumpkin, etc.) to biscuit dough recipes.
  • Make whole-wheat stuffing made with low sodium broth and green beans with almonds instead of traditional green. bean casserole, fruit crisps instead of pie.
  • Include fruits, vegetables and nuts to boost nutritional content of foods.
  • Experiment with spices, even adding a little sugar & cinnamon to sweet potatoes can improve the taste, instead of loads of butter.
  • Choose cooking methods – roasting, broiling, steaming.
  • Be mindful of portions (maybe use smaller plate).
  • Try to exercise especially around this time of year.
  • Watch alcohol, cocktails can be 400+ calories (wine spritzer, apple cider w/champagne) – 1 drink a day for women.
  • Be thankful & enjoy yourself.

 

Once you are committed to making some changes, empowerment begins. Remember that a healthy lifestyle is always a work in progress. You pick the start point, but there is no endpoint. Happy holidays!

Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in oncology and weight management in Long Island and in the New York City area. Wendy is the Nutrition Program Director for Mondays at Racine Cancer Care Foundation, a 501c3. Connect with Wendy on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter and read more of her blog posts and download recipes at Food4HealthRD.com

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