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Tips to support healthy holiday eating for caregivers, patients and families

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November 30, 2017

Caregivers and patients need the support of everyone around them for a safe and healthy holiday season.

If you’re a caregiver, make sure everyone is aware of dietary restrictions and any dangers deviations may pose. If everyone thinks they are the only one offering a diabetic just a little piece of dessert or a sip of wine, for example, it won’t take long for trouble to set in. Make sure your family and friends are helping you support your loved one’s good health.

Tips for everyone:

  • Eat regular, healthy snacks so you aren’t driven by hunger when there are fewer healthy options.
  • Use a smaller plate to help control portion size.
  • Limit or eliminate alcohol consumption.
  • Remember that “just one bite” and “it’s only once a year” still count against your good health if you are on a restricted diet.
  • If someone declines a food or beverage, it may be for health reasons. Respect their request and don’t pressure them to indulge.

Patients with specific conditions should consult their doctor about staying healthy and eating healthy through the holiday season. If you are a caregiver or visiting someone with a chronic or life limiting illness, here are some basic tips for healthier holiday eating:

Diabetes – For those with diabetes, the holidays and the unlimited supply of sweets and starches are the most challenging time of the year. But it’s critical to keep tabs on the starches and sugars consumed throughout the day. Scheduled, healthy snacks will help keep blood sugar where it needs to be and help avoid impulsive binges on bad choices. Pass on mediocre, everyday offerings and savor holiday favorites. Avoid fat by skipping sauces and gravies and choosing broiled or baked meats over fried.

High blood pressure – Those with high blood pressure know that salt is a big concern every day of the year. Sodium increases blood pressure and retains fluid, making the heart work harder. Avoid high-salt foods such as deli and relish trays; ham; turkey and chicken that have been injected with salt water; gravies and stuffing. They are all way too high in sodium for even a nibble. Help yourself to baked potatoes, fruit, vegetables and dark chocolate. And watch out for hidden sodium in desserts, especially store-bought sweets.

Kidney disease – Having kidney disease means limiting salt and fat and in some cases monitoring fluid intake. Avoid the same processed, pickled, salty foods listed above for high blood pressure patients. Trim the fat from any cuts of meat and avoid creamy dishes and casseroles along with fried foods. If you are monitoring your fluid intake, plan ahead for special events and travel.

COPD – Emphysema makes over-indulging difficult and dangerous. COPD patients should avoid the big, sit-down holiday meals and instead have smaller meals throughout the day, which will limit pressure on the stomach and the diaphragm. It’s also a good idea to monitor fluid intake to make sure the patient isn’t filling up on beverages instead of getting nutritious meals.