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'Tis the Season to Stick to Your Meds

Adherence strategies for the holidays

December 1998

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

With the holiday season under way, sweet and saddening memories of friends, families, gift giving, gift getting, cranberry sauce, matzo balls, and holiday stress may come to mind.

This is the time to reminisce about the year gone by, look forward to all the indulgence of the holiday season, and make resolutions for the new year. Since your daily routine of eating and medication taking is likely to be disturbed by all the holiday festivities, this is also a particularly important time to write down your own regular meal and medication schedule. This is really the time to stick with it more arduously than ever.

If you cannot keep to your routine because of the holidays, talk to a health care professional or a friend about where it gets difficult. Make taking meds and eating your priority.


Plan for days when you will be out of the house. Plan ahead if you will be at a friend's place for holiday dinner. It may be a good idea to do the following:

  • Take bottled water and snacks whenever you leave the house.

  • Bring your own food, or eat before, if you have a strict diet. You can also communicate your needs to anyone with a demand on your time. Say, for example, "I need to eat first."

  • Be sure to eat at scheduled times.

  • Don't skip meals.

If you experience any problems eating, smaller, more frequent meals may work better for you than three large ones. Eating smaller frequent meals will help the following problems: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite/getting full fast, fatigue, swallowing difficulty, and bloating and gas. It may also be a good idea to drink liquids 30 minutes before or after solid foods to avoid filling up on water right before eating. Avoid foods that may cause bloating and gas, such as gas-producing foods (cabbage, brussels sprouts, green pepper, cucumber, onions, beer, dried beans or peas), carbonated beverages, fatty, fried, and greasy foods.

Keep in mind the following food restrictions for protease inhibitors:

  • Saquinavir (Invirase): The amount of the drug that is available for use by the body is optimal when the drug is taken after a meal especially high in calories and fat.

  • Indinavir (Crixivan): Should be taken on an empty stomach (one hour before a meal or two hours after a meal) or taken with a very light, non-fat snack, such as toast with jelly and fruit juice.

  • Ritonavir (Norvir): To reduce side effects, ritonavir should be taken with high-calorie, high-fat foods.

  • Nelfinavir (Viracept): Should always be taken with a meal or a light snack to increase absorption and reduce GI side effects. Since loose stools and diarrhea are a few of the nutrition-related side effects, it may be a good idea to avoid foods that will aggravate the gastrointestinal tract.

Here are some tips you may also want to follow to reduce your risk of food poisoning so that you can still have an enjoyable holiday:

  • Defrost the turkey in the fridge three to four days in advance. Avoid microwaving or thawing at room temperature.

  • Cook stuffing outside the turkey.

  • Do not eat chicken or turkey that is pink near the bone.

  • Avoid homemade ice cream and eggnog.

  • Alcohol

Alcohol can react with many medications. Alcohol may also impair judgment, causing sleepiness after drinking and interfering with medication taking. To avoid returning home sleepy and forgetting to take your meds, it is wise to take your meds before going out with friends.

Alcohol can also cause nutrient deficiencies by either decreasing absorption or decreasing food intake. The nutrients most commonly affected are vitamins A, D, E, B complex, glucose, certain amino acids, folate, zinc, magnesium and calcium.

Consult your physician or pharmacist for advice.

This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

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A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

  • Email Email
  • Printable Single-Page Print-Friendly
  • Glossary Glossary

This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.