Written for Daily Hive by Liz Powell. Liz Powell is a registered dietitian and founder of Yaletown Nutrition. She works with clients to overcome barriers to healthy eating and develop a healthy relationship with food.
It’s that time of year again, chocolates and homemade cookies start appearing around the office, and the holiday parties seem to make up the majority of your meals in a week.
This is a wonderful time of year where we get to celebrate family, friends, culture, and of course, food! Unfortunately, for some, this time of year can come with the stress and anxieties of being surrounded by temptations.
It’s important to remember that we eat food not only for the nutrition it provides but also for the happiness it brings and the memories it creates. With the right tools, we can indulge this season, while continuing to eat well to nourish our bodies and our minds.
Start by ditching the mindset of good and bad foods, or clean eating and “not-so” clean eating. By labelling foods as good or bad, you can leave yourself feeling guilty and not fully enjoying those indulgences that are meant to bring you pleasure. All foods fit in a healthy diet in moderation. Focus on choosing foods that nourish your body more often, and choosing treats in moderation. Giving yourself permission to indulge once in a while will prevent the development of negative feelings towards food.
The holidays are a very busy time: work deadlines, finding your loved ones that perfect gift, and balancing social events. This can lead to skipping meals and relying on fast food because there just isn’t enough time in the day. Set yourself up for success by planning your meals ahead of time. Secondly, keep snacks on hand to ensure you’re not letting yourself get too hungry, which can lead to making less healthy choices. To feel more satisfied, include a protein in these snacks, such as roasted chickpeas, or Greek yogurt.
The Healthy Plate Guide encourages us to fill half of our plate with vegetables, a quarter of our plate with a protein, and a quarter with whole grains or starchy vegetables. Yes, surprisingly this can even be done during the holidays! Now it may be difficult to fill half your plate with vegetables if the only vegetables in sight are a sad looking raw vegetable platter. For potlucks, use this as an opportunity to bring a seasonal vegetable dish or your favourite salad. After loading up on the vegetables, grab some protein, for example, turkey, shrimp, roast beef, or chickpeas. Lastly, fill the remaining quarter of your plate with starches, such as baked yams, roasted potatoes, or a whole wheat bun. By starting the event with a nourishing, balanced meal, you’ll only need a few indulgences afterwards to feel satisfied. Remember, we’re not saying no to the treats, we’re only saying later on and in moderation!
Now that you’re satisfied from your balanced meal, it’s time to choose some treats amongst what is likely to be a very wide variety. Remember that just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to have it! They will all seem tempting, but opt for the treats that are only available during this time of the year, and save the chips and cupcakes for another time. Now is the time to pick your favourite holiday item that you’ve been waiting for all year long.
Holiday drinks can tack on unneeded calories quite quickly if you’re not careful. Say no to toppings on hot drinks, such as caramels, whip cream, and sprinkles.For mixed drinks and punch, substitute or add soda water to decrease total sugar intake. Finally, have a glass of water between every “fun” drink. By alternating, you’ll still get to enjoy the experience of holiday eggnog without drinking it to quench your thirst alone.
The dreaded holiday food coma, we’ve all been there. At the time, you may feel like you blew it, “I guess I’ll start again on Monday, or next month, or… never.” Just because you over-indulged the night before doesn’t mean you can’t get back on track at the very next meal. Start your new day with a yummy vegetable omelette or apple cinnamon oatmeal. Think of every meal as a brand new opportunity to make healthy choices and nourish your body!
With everything else going on there doesn’t seem to be much time left for exercise. Studies show that short bouts of physical activity during the day can be as beneficial as one continuous session. Incorporate physical activity into your daily activities, such as taking the stairs, standing at the party, going for a walk at lunch, or parking further away from the entrance. It may also seem less overwhelming than waking up before sunrise to hit the gym before work. After your big holiday meal, go for a walk as a family and enjoy the fresh air, this will also improve digestion. Or try a new seasonal activity as a family, such as snowshoeing or ice skating.
Remember, just like the rest of the year, it is all about balance and moderation. Continue to choose foods that nourish your body, and treat yourself from time to time because food should be a fun and enjoyable part of our lives! Happy Holidays!