Ah, the holidays. The festivities, the family, the fun…and who can forget about the food? For people with pancreatic cancer, holiday foods can be a concern since the disease, at any stage, can create challenges in a patient’s diet and change nutritional needs.

The Fix asked contributor Maria Petzel for her top tips for managing nutritional needs during the holidays. Petzel is a senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Here’s what she said:

  • Patients should be aware that there are often lots of “hidden fats” (think nuts, whole milk, cheese, etc.) in holiday foods, so if you require pancreatic enzymes, you may need more during holiday meals.
  • If eating socially, you may not be eating more food, but you may be taking longer to eat a meal or eat food. If you do not usually spread your enzymes across a meal, you may need to do so.
  • If you usually spread your enzymes, you may need to take them based on time – not stage – of meal. For example, if you take a capsule every 15 minutes, this may result in taking more capsules over the course of the meal/party but will ensure better digestion and minimize unpleasant symptoms.
  • Alcohol does not require pancreatic enzymes for digestion but some “mixers” do. If you are enjoying a glass of wine or a beer, you do not need additional enzymes, but you may with eggnog because of the cream and eggs.
  • For patients with taste changes/dullness, turn to cranberries to perk up not only the color on your plate, but your taste buds, too. They can have the same effect as pickles or lemons, and they’re festive and holiday-ready, to boot!

For more information on pancreatic enzymes, visit our website. Good nutritional care improves outcomes and is critical for your quality of life. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends that patients have access to pancreatic enzymes and see a registered dietitian.

Are you a pancreatic cancer patient or caregiver? You can access comprehensive disease information, including diet and nutrition tips, recipes and a booklet on the subject – all reviewed and approved by renowned leaders in the field, by contacting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s one-on-one PanCAN Patient Services support service by phone or email.

Come back to our blog each week for more Friday Fix: Your Weekly Nutrition Supplement.