- The general recommendation is to have a balanced diet providing all the nutrients and biocomponents needed, mainly with fruit and vegetables giving both vegetable and animal proteins, preferably legumes and fish, in addition to doing about 30 minutes of physical exercise three days a week
- Consulting a nutrition unit specialized in the treatment of cancer patients is recommended whenever there are problems eating or food intake is low
- The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected our eating habits, both physically and socially
Madrid, December 28, 2020.- Over the Christmas period, there are special meals and dinners with family and friends, and it is almost inevitable for us to succumb to the temptation of an appealing appetizer or dessert, and to consume more calories than we really need. After the holidays, it is common to feel heavy or have some problems or discomfort with our digestive system, which we should always try to avoid. So, it is essential to take some things into account to ensure the healthiest Christmas possible for us all, but even more so in the case of cancer patients.
One of the main problems a cancer patient can suffer is that of seeing their diet altered, both due to loss of appetite with the consequent loss of weight, and the loss of the perception of taste and changes in way foods taste. "This results in different degrees of malnutrition, with the simplest form of support being maintaining variety in the diet and adapting to their energy needs", says Pedro Robledo of the Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics Unit at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid. In these cases, he points out that it is advisable to consult an oncology specialist who can refer the patient to a nutrition unit or service for monitoring and support.
At this type of unit, a multidisciplinary team of experts in oncology and nutrition study each cancer patient individually, taking into account their specific disease and the treatment they are receiving in order to give dietary guidelines that facilitate their nutritional and energy intake, according to the needs in each case.
How to achieve a good diet and ensure optimal physical exercise
For cancer patients, the recommendations this Christmas do not differ much from those of previous years, except for certain aspects that must be taken into account, like the current restrictions associated with COVID-19. The general advice in terms of nutrition pointed out by Dr. Robledo to be able to enjoy this Christmas as much as any other would be to follow a healthy diet that includes vegetable protein (legumes), animal protein such as fish, white meat and eggs, and fruit and vegetables, preferably whole, on a daily basis.
The doctor also points out the need to be especially careful with the size of servings and excess caloric intake at the evenings, which is not recommended. Along with a healthy diet, Dr. Robledo also mentions the importance of physical exercise, since this Christmas we will not be able to get around as much as in previous years after the plentiful meals that are so typical at this time of year.
In this case, on the one hand, it is important to adapt our calorie intake to the physical activity we can do, either with basic isometric exercises at home or walking at least 30 minutes, three times a week. On the other hand, continue with physical exercise on a regular basis, but always respecting the limitations in time and space, always exercising in open spaces and maintaining recommended social distances.
The influence of COVID-19 on eating habits
It is important to stress the way the pandemic has had a significant influence on our diet, both physically, because of the way it affects the senses of taste and smell, which are so closely related to food, and socially, with changes in habits in "the purchase of food, cooking methods or the way we share our meals socially", states Dr. Robledo.
On a physical level, he stresses that “it has been found that patients who were positive for COVID-19 with severe disease presented symptoms that included loss of taste, smell and fatigue, as well as metabolic effects that caused weight loss ranging from 5% to more than 15% of the patient’s initial weight”.