Tis the season for gratitude, gathering with loved ones, and good food! Whether you’re getting ready to dive into a turkey dinner or pumpkin pie, I’ve got some tips for eating well with PD this season.
As a board-certified neurologist, going into the heart of my patients’ kitchens wasn’t always the plan. But as my patients with Parkinson’s and I worked together to ease their digestive challenges, I knew I wanted to offer them more hope and a greater sense of control over their wellbeing by mixing the science of medicine with the art of cooking as a Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist. What this means is I don’t just sit in a doctor’s office with my patients and tell them they need to have a healthy diet. We go deeper: we explore the effect food has on the body, what to do with the actual food in your kitchen, and how to make small and sustainable changes that are right for you. Cooking and eating well are not about serving a Michelin star meal or a Pinterest ready plate for every single dinner; it’s about taking the time to be thoughtful about what you put in your body. You deserve to do something good for you.
When you’re living with PD, eating well, especially around the holidays when we indulge in big, heavy meals, can have added challenges. Parkinson’s can affect the entire digestive experience, from a loss of smell, which affects appetite, to swallowing issues, to slowed peristalsis (gut movement), to constipation. To ease some of these symptoms, especially during this season, I have collected tried and true tips:
Choose small meals. Moderation is key.
Steer clear of heavy dishes with lots of cheese and cream.
Holiday meals can be all about the side dishes. Choose the lighter ones when you can.
Be sure to eat plant-based fiber throughout the season to keep your digestive system in tip-top shape. Wellbeing is about what you do on a consistent basis, not just one day of the year.
I believe that if you eat well for your body most of the time, then treating yourself to something rich and indulgent at the Thanksgiving table is just fine. Enjoy it and appreciate it. Holidays are a great time to tap into a sense of family and community, and food is one more pleasure to savor during this celebratory season.