Healthy Eating for the Holidays

Chelsey Schneider, MS, RD, CSO, CDN, Oncology Dietitian

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s the perfect time to explore seasonal ingredients and highlight healthy holiday nutrition tips. Fall brings some of the most flavorful, colorful seasonal produce that you can incorporate into holiday dishes (or any dishes!). Seasonal foods are harvested at optimal ripeness, resulting in tastier, fresher, and typically less expensive produce. We have highlighted some seasonal fruits and vegetables that can make the biggest impact on your health. Incorporate these ingredients to make dishes that are both tasty and nutritious for the holiday season!

Cranberries

Cranberries are not only a great source of vitamin C, but they contain polyphenols which act as powerful antioxidants in the body. Proanthocyanidin is a type of polyphenol found in cranberries that’s being studied for its potential to protect the body from certain types of cancer.1 It’s important to keep in mind that many store bought cranberry products, such as dried cranberries and cranberry sauce, are concentrated with added sugar. Read nutrition labels and choose cranberry products with the least amount of added sugar, or, buy fresh cranberries and try some of the ideas below!

How to Use:

  • Cranberries can be enjoyed on their own or paired with sweeter fruits such as apples or oranges, to balance out the tartness of the cranberries. Try cooking a cranberry apple compote to add to yogurt or oatmeal in the morning.
  • Make baked goods healthier by adding fruit! Incorporate fresh or frozen unsweetened cranberries into the batter for pies, muffins, or bread.
  • Add cranberries when cooking your favorite whole grains such as rice or quinoa.

Apples

Apples are a good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and polyphenols. Both fiber and polyphenolic compounds have been linked to improved gut health and a reduced risk of certain cancers.2,3 Apples contain a high amount of soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and turns into a gel-like substance that improves digestion. Consuming apples and other sources of soluble fiber can be especially helpful for managing certain side effects of cancer treatment, such as diarrhea and constipation.

How to Use:

  • Top oatmeal or yogurt with apple slices and nut butter for a balanced breakfast.
  • Make home-made apple butter by adding apple slices, water, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a large pot and cooking until the apples are soft. Mash the contents of the pot to a consistency of your choice and serve the apple butter on top of toasted whole grain bread. If you experience diarrhea with treatment, applesauce and apple butter are two ways to safely incorporate fruits into your diet.
  • Roast apple slices in a pan with oil and cinnamon. This will soften the apples, making them better suited for anyone experiencing oral changes from cancer treatment.
  • Add raw apple slices to your sandwiches and wraps for an extra crunch.

Winter Squash

Winter squash is harvested in late summer through fall and includes many varieties: butternut, acorn, pumpkin, spaghetti, and more! They are packed with nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber, potassium, and carotenoids. In the body, carotenoids get turned into vitamin A. They also act as antioxidants to defend against inflammation and chronic disease.4 The soft and creamy texture of squash can be a great option for people experiencing oral changes from cancer treatment, such as mouth sores and difficulty swallowing.

How to Use:

  • Cut squash into chunks and roast in the oven with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary. The roasted squash can be served as a side dish, snack, or mixed with a salad.
  • Make squash the star of your soup, by boiling squash in broth and pureeing with an immersion blender.
  • Make a squash pasta sauce by pureeing cooked winter squash with milk and spices.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene functions as an antioxidant to eliminate free radicals from the body, and therefore has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.4 If you’re looking to add some extra fiber to your diet, the skin of a sweet potato is loaded with fiber and safe to eat! The complex carbohydrates in sweet potatoes make them a great option for combatting fatigue. They are digested slowly and help balance energy levels throughout the day!

How to Use:

  • Dice sweet potatoes and roast in the oven with olive oil and garlic. Enjoy as a side dish or as an addition to a salad or grain bowl.
  • Make mashed sweet potatoes for a creamy snack or side.
  • Use sweet potatoes to make baked goods such as muffins or cookies.
  • Make baked sweet potatoes and add toppings such as cinnamon and maple syrup to make it sweet, or sour cream and chives for a more savory dish.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts contain fiber, vitamin C, folate, carotenoids, and flavonols. The phytochemicals in Brussels sprouts act as antioxidants and protect the cells in our body from damage. Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetable family. Cruciferous vegetables have been studied for their potential cancer-fighting properties associated with compounds called glucosinolates. When cruciferous vegetables are consumed, the glucosinolates break down into molecules of isothiocyanates and indoles, which have demonstrated chemoprotective qualities in various research studies.5

How to Use:

  • Roast or saute Brussels sprouts with olive oil and garlic for a simple snack or side. Top cooked brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar, cheese, and pine nuts to elevate this dish.
  • Add cooked Brussels sprouts to your favorite pasta for an extra serving of vegetables.
  • Use raw, shaved Brussels sprouts mixed with kale as a nutrient dense salad base.
  • Add roasted Brussels sprouts to your favorite stir fry dish.

Recipe

Incorporate many of these ingredients into one dish by trying this recipe for Brussels Sprout Apple Slaw with Cranberries and Walnuts. This recipe is simple, light, and packed with beneficial nutrients. Enjoy this dish on its own or as a side to your favorite seasonal entree!

https://www.aicr.org/cancer-prevention/recipes/brussels-sprout-slaw-with-cranberries-and-walnuts/

Sources

  1. Wang TK, Xu S, Li S, Zhang Y. Proanthocyanidins Should Be a Candidate in the Treatment of Cancer, Cardiovascular Diseases and Lipid Metabolic Disorder. Molecules. 2020;25(24):5971. Published 2020 Dec 16. doi:10.3390/molecules25245971
  2. Wilson AS, Koller KR, Ramaboli MC, et al. Diet and the Human Gut Microbiome: An International Review. Dig Dis Sci. 2020;65(3):723-740. doi:10.1007/s10620-020-06112-w
  3. Zhao Y, Jiang Q. Roles of the Polyphenol-Gut Microbiota Interaction in Alleviating Colitis and Preventing Colitis-Associated Colorectal Cancer. Adv Nutr. 2021;12(2):546-565. doi:10.1093/advances/nmaa104
  4. Aune D. Plant Foods, Antioxidant Biomarkers, and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and Mortality: A Review of the Evidence. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(Suppl_4):S404-S421. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz042
  5. Soundararajan P, Kim JS. Anti-Carcinogenic Glucosinolates in Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Antagonistic Effects on Prevention of Cancers. Molecules. 2018;23(11):2983. Published 2018 Nov 15. doi:10.3390/molecules23112983

Chelsea

Chelsey is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology nutrition (CSO). She completed her Dietetic Internship at Northwell Health, received her BS in Dietetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her MS in Nutrition at Stony Brook University’s School of Medicine. In addition to her role at Savor Health, Chelsey has over 10 years of experience working as an outpatient oncology RD, working with patients of various diagnoses, before, during and after cancer treatment. Chelsey values sharing evidenced-based guidelines to empower patients with knowledge at any stage of their cancer journey.

 

 

sierra

Sierra Winner is an RD-to-be and currently completing her dietetic internship rotations. She is enrolled in the Coordinated Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics program at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York. Sierra received her BS in Health Professions from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During her time as an undergrad, she worked as a medical scribe in the radiation oncology unit at Jefferson Hospital. Throughout her undergrad experience, she developed a passion for nutrition and its impact on health, which she continues to pursue today. In her free time, Sierra enjoys reading, traveling and being with friends.

 

Blog category

Like what you're reading?

Join our email list to get more lung cancer news and personal stories.

Sign up