After a colorectal cancer diagnosis, enjoying a holiday meal may not be the same as it once was. Here are 7 tips for holiday eating.

Food can be a tricky subject under the best circumstances. Add in the complications of cancer, the holidays, and family – now that’s a minefield that would make anyone want to crawl under the table and hide!

Can You Enjoy A Holiday Meal After Colorectal Cancer?

Life celebrations revolve around food. Holidays included. It can be frustrating when meals are at the heart of all we do, but meals make us miserable. 

Emotions and stress can also affect how we process and digest our food, leading to flare ups and uncomfortable bathroom tips if we’re not careful. 

Even in survivorship, colorectal cancer can often remain on our minds because our digestive systems are not the same as they once were. 

How then, can we enjoy our holiday meal after facing colorectal cancer? 

Good news: It’s possible!

Our 7 tips for holiday eating after a colorectal cancer diagnosis may provide relief or assistance as you celebrate the most wonderful time of year! Wherever you are in the colorectal cancer continuum, the following tips are for you: 

7 Tips For Holiday Eating

With the assistance of survivor and therapist Chad Latta, MA, we've assembled a list of 7 tips for holiday eating.

1. Bring What You Can Eat

If you are asked to bring a dish or a snack, bring a dish that fits your meal plan. Set yourself up for success. Bring what you can eat. 

Consider tracking what you’re eating throughout the day. This will encourage mindful eating and help eliminate grazing. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday atmosphere and eat too much because it’s there.

Look for recipes that include healthy choices for you ahead of time. 

Another way to set yourself up for success this holiday season is to learn more or to register for Ina® The Intelligent Nutrition Assistant from Savor Health®. Ina provides recipes for people with cancer.

After registering, whenever you’d like answers to your nutrition questions or information on how to prevent or manage symptoms, text Ina from your cell phone, and she’ll respond with personalized nutrition tips, recipes, and answers to your questions — no phone calls or appointments necessary.

2. Hydrate Well

Some health issues like constipation, weight gain, and fatigue can be lessened by drinking fluids throughout the day. Plan to hydrate well: have 8oz.–12oz. of fluids every three to four hours. 

Water, juices, decaffeinated tea, coffee, broths, soups, ices, popsicles, gelatins, and low-calorie beverages can help you feel more like yourself. 

Dehydration is a common side effect of cancer treatment, so be sure to remain hydrated.

Liquids assist in moving food through the digestive track and curb cravings for high calorie snacks. If lactose sensitive, choose lactose-free options. 

3. Tell People How You Feel 

Let them know in advance if you don’t feel up to hosting your usual holiday party. If unable to contribute your signature holiday dish for dinner, offer to bring condiments, plates, utensils, napkins, or cups. These items are essential to a great party.

4. Let Others Help with Holiday Eating

Family and friends want to help. Cancer is also really difficult for caregivers because so frequently there isn’t anything they can do. So, they’re happy to know that making some accommodations can help you. 

Let others help you with eating good for the holidays. Guide them to a website with recipes for people with cancer. Allow them assist you with your nutrition and side effects. They can choose recipes that address your nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and trouble swallowing.

The people who love you want to be sure you’re eating healthy for the holidays.

Communicating your needs won’t only help you, but it allows those around you to know what you need. Otherwise, they will be guessing, and that’s a recipe for problems.

5. Be Prepared.

Your host wants you to be comfortable, so don’t be shy about asking for anything you need. However, it’s good to be prepared in case you don’t need something the host doesn’t have. Consider packing a holiday survival kit with the following:

Food

Snacks you can eat and have had success with. 

Clothes

A complete backup outfit (including socks and shoes) in case you have an accident.  

Supplies

Creams and soft or doubly-ply toilet paper. Extra ostomy provisions.

6. Connect

Clearly communicating your needs allows you to connect. Cancer can be so isolating. You’re trapped in your own terrible experience while those around you go on with normal life.

How do you bridge the gap and reconnect? Connect and communicate.

When you share honestly, you will let others in and allow them to help.

Imagine a friend of yours is struggling, but you don’t really know why or how to help. What if they shared how they’re feeling and specifically let you know what you could do to help? What a relief! Communication opens up connections.

7. Embrace the Holiday Eating Season

The real reason for the season is not food and drink but more about family, friends, and celebrating another year. Give thanks for those around you. Enjoy gratitude in the day.

Enjoy eating good during the holidays with foods that you haven’t had the energy to make lately. Embrace the season.

Food Is More Than Nutrition

Food is much more than simply fuel for our physical bodies. It is more than nutrition. Food is emotional, social, and can have deep roots in family and cultural traditions. 

Humans have always gathered to share and build social bonds through eating. So, when something like colorectal cancer steps in and fundamentally changes our relationship with food, something that was once positive can become a challenge.

Find Joy in Food Again

The holidays can put food issues front and center. Not only do we navigate what our individual systems can handle, but we have to deal with the awkwardness and problems that our new food restrictions can cause with family and friends. 

It's difficult being the one who can’t join in, or the person asking for specific accommodations. The last thing we want to be is the one ruining everyone else’s fun. 

Although your system may not be what it used to be, you are not alone. 

Sometimes the best support and assistance can come from people who have been through a similar journey as yours. It is possible to find joy in food again, and others have found hope and gratitude as food has brought them new passions and healing.

More Resources on Food and Colorectal Cancer

To read more about colorectal cancer and food challenges, and for more information and suggestions, be sure to check out and download the fall 2021 Food Issue of Beyond Blue.

3 thoughts on “7 Tips For Holiday Eating

  1. Great advice for eating during the holidays. You shouldn’t feel forced to eat anything you aren’t comfortable with. Your health is more important so it’s good to stick to your guns. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing these great holiday nutrition ideas. Christmas time is always challenging but these strategies will make this year better.

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