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  • Christina Hunt

Best Holiday Food Choices for People with Lung Conditions


I don’t know about you guys but after Thanksgiving my body let me know that my choices in foods did not lead me to feel my best. Even at 40 years old, adding the extra salt, sweets, and fat in my diet causes swelling in my hands, less energy, not to mention a few extra pounds of weight that I can carry around this time of year. With this experience, it has caused me to do a little extra research to find the foods that are typically served around the holidays and make a list of the food choices you should go for due to their benefits for people with lung conditions. I think that if you steer yourselves to having more healthy choices and only minimally partaking in the options that aren’t quite as good for you, then you will feel and breathe your best during and after the holidays are said and done.


Before I mention those “healthier food options” I want to make sure I give you some eating tips as well. First thing, eat slowly. Someone once told me that it takes your brain 20 minutes to realize that you are full. If you eat quickly, not only will you bring on the bloat, but you may consume more food than your body really needs to feel full. Secondly, don’t overfill. When people with lung conditions eat too large of a meal their stomach can push up on their diaphragm causing them to feel more short of breath. Even though many of your favorite foods will be served, take only a small portion. If it helps, use a smaller plate that way you won’t be tempted to fill a larger dinner plate. Third, eat as close to your normal eating times as possible. Mixing up your normal eating schedule may give you larger swings of hunger and if you are diabetic, it could throw off your blood sugar. Fourth, if you are at a party or holiday gathering, don’t stand (or sit) right beside the food and dessert table. Being only an arm’s length away will make it too easy to continually graze. Keep your distance from the food tables to make sure your eating is intentional. Lastly, don’t be hard on yourself. Allow yourself to have an indulgence or two, however limit it to only a very small portion.


Here are my suggestions for holiday foods you should choose when you have a lung condition.


For Appetizers or Munchies:


Choose dips that are Greek yogurt based or hummus instead or cheese/sour cream based – Greek yogurt typically has less fat and has wonderful probiotics to help aid in your digestion. Hummus contains protein and less fat than other dips. I’ve seen it in the grocery stores in both savory and sweet options.


Dip veggies instead of chips – Vegetables have phytochemicals that help neutralize free radicals which can damage your cells. They provide loads of fiber and extra water content to aid in digestion. Choose a variety of colors to get a variety of vitamins and nutrients.



Choose (unbuttered) popcorn or crack your own nuts if you want a crunchy snack – Popcorn is rich in antioxidants, polyphenols (chemicals that decrease your risk of other chronic diseases), and fiber. Nuts are rich in protein and healthy fats. You should choose nuts that are in the shell and need to be cracked. Cracking nuts is time consuming and can slow your eating consumption down. Avoid salted or candied roasted nuts like cashews, pecans, and macadamia that can elevate your blood pressure, make you retain fluid, and add to your waistline.


Enjoy shrimp cocktail without the guilt – Shrimp have very little calories and are low in saturated fat. Be careful and only use a small amount of cocktail sauce which can be high in sugar and salt.



For Beverages:


Choose beverages that aren’t carbonated, are low in sugar, and are hydrating. - It is important that people with lung conditions stay well hydrated. It helps your lungs function at their best as well as keeps sputum and mucous thin and easy to mobilize. Water is ALWAYS best.


Avoid Eggnog – Eggnog is loaded in calories and cholesterol. If you plan to consume alcohol, choose red wine. Red wine contains resveratrol which is an antioxidant that is believed to have heart heathy benefits like decreasing “bad” cholesterol. When drinking alcohol make sure you drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages in order to help prevent dehydration. Lung patients should avoid champagne because the carbonation could lead to excess bloating.



For Side Dishes:


Go for the veggies. – Choose non-starchy roasted or steamed vegetables like brussel sprouts, green beans, and butternut squash. Avoid casseroles which can be loaded in fat and calories. A good rule of thumb when filling your plate is to make sure ½ of the plate is veggies. Also, eat your veggies first that way you can make sure you get the “good foods” into your system before you fill up.


Choose sweet potatoes over mashed potatoes – Whether they are mashed or roasted, sweet potatoes contain a ton of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, iron, and calcium. Avoid sweet potatoes that are “candied” or in a casserole. Mashed potatoes offer you bulk and typically need more cream and butter to give them their creamy consistency. They virtually have very little health benefits.


For Main Dish:


Poultry is your best bet – If turkey or chicken is being served, choose to eat the lean white meat. Avoid the dark meat located in the thighs and legs that has a higher fat content. Be careful not to overdress your poultry with too much gravy.



Ham can be an option – Ham can be fairly lean in fat however it also can have a ton of salt. If ham is your only option, make sure you drink plenty of water with your meal (and after) in order to help flush out some of the salt contained in ham and avoid the bloat that you may have later. Also, make sure you “trim” your serving well and avoid eating the pork fat that can be served with your portion.


For Dessert :


Pick pumpkin over pecan pie – Pumpkin is high in fiber and vitamins A and C which can help you to fight infections and avoid being sick. Pumpkin pie typically has fewer calories than pecan pie. Remember to take only a small portion and avoid any extra calorie garnishes like whipped cream or ice cream.


Dark chocolate can be healthy and satisfying – As a chocolate lover, it gives me great satisfaction to not only suggest that you eat a piece of dark chocolate, but to also encourage it. Good dark chocolate (not the sugary stuff) contains fiber, iron, magnesium, and load of antioxidants. Dark chocolate eaten in moderation can also lower your blood pressure and your LDL cholesterol (the bad type). So, if you want to indulge a little over the holidays with a piece of dark chocolate, know that I am giving you a big thumb’s up.


Happy Holidays and Thanks for Reading!


If you enjoyed this blog, I invite you to check out some of the topics I have covered in the past

Breathing Techniques. Rebooted

Newly Diagnosed. What Do You Do Now? How to Start Managing Your Lung Condition

Cleaning Tips for People with Lung Conditions


Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!


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:) Christina


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