Cancer prevention tips for the holidays

December 18, 2018

A Registered Dietitian at the Cancer Centre meets with a patient to share wellness tips for the holidays

The treats have been baked, the parties have been planned and the seasonal drinks are out in full force – December is here and that means we’re into the swing of the holiday season. Along with spending time with family and friends, the holidays can also often mean a lot of opportunities to indulge in treats and stay cozy inside. Recognizing that healthy living choices during the holidays can be challenging, the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario has some strategies to help you continue to make healthy choices for cancer prevention throughout the holiday season.

“Maintaining your weight within the healthy weight range, being physically active and avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption are some of theways to help reduce your risk of developing cancer,” says Lyndsay Glazier, Registered Dietitian with the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario. “Food and drinks can be an important part of many celebrations and we want to help people navigate the holiday season while still enjoying their favourite traditions.”

One of the most important recommendations to protect against cancer is to keep your weight within the healthy weight range and avoid weight gain in adulthood. During the holiday season, focus on keeping your weight stable while participating in celebrations.

“Before holiday parties, make sure you continue to eat regular meals throughout the day,” says Glazier. “Skipping meals to save up for a big meal will make it more likely for you to overeat.”

Some other tips include to:

  • Avoid sitting or standing near the buffet table- Focus on socializing with friends and family instead of the food. 
  • Use a smaller plate if available- we tend fill our plates; using a smaller plate can help you to keep your portion sizes in control
  • Choose vegetables first-you tend to put more on your plate of the first thing you grab; load up on vegetables first, then protein, then starch
  • Enjoy your favourite holiday foods –choose dishes you really enjoy and can’t get any other time of the year, but be mindful of your portion sizes. Pass on high calorie foods that you can get anytime.
  • Practice mindful eating- Take time to consider if you are actually hungry.  Eat slowly and savour your food.  Stop when you are full.

Another important way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to limit your consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol.

“For cancer prevention it is best not to drink alcohol,” says Glazier. “If you do choose to drink, limit your intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.”

Other helpful tips include:

  • Take the focus off of drinking alcohol at holiday parties; instead of alcohol, drink club soda or water flavoured with fresh fruit
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, sip slowly and alternate alcoholic drinks with club soda or water
  • Measure your drinks; a drink means 12 ounces of beer or cider, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled alcohol (rye, gin, rum, etc.)
  • When ordering a take-out beverage ask for it to be made ‘half-sweet’ then try mixing half of the sweetened beverage with something that has no added sugar, such as water, sparkling water or coffee

Once you’re done with the holiday food and drink, don’t forget to fit some physical activity into your day. It’s recommended that you fit in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.

“Try to be active every day during the holiday season. Some great ways include going for a walk after your meal, ice skating, or doing some extra laps at the mall while holiday shopping,” says Glazier. “Evidence shows that physical activity protects against cancers of the colon, breast and endometrium and helps to prevent excess weight gain.”

These holiday recommendations are based on The World Cancer Research Fund’s (WCRF) and The American Institute for Cancer Research’s (AICR) third expert report Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective.

“This is an excellent evidence-based resource for anyone interested in learning how to reduce their risk of cancer or live well after a diagnosis,” says Glazier.


Cancer Care South East makes it easy for you to share the information that is important to you. Click on the icon for the social network of your choice, sign into your account to share what you have found with your own network.