Healthy Eating During the Holidays
Written by: Kristen DaSilva, UWO Nutrition Student & Dietetic Intern
The holidays are fast approaching and you know what that means, lots of delicious food, beverages, and treats! Maybe you’ve been looking forward to indulging in family dinners, or maybe you’re nervous it’ll mess up all your progress. (P.S. it won’t)! Either way, not to worry, I have some tips to help you to continue to eat healthy, even with the holiday feast.
First off, there is no shame with eating a little more than usual, the holidays are about spending time with family, and food is a huge part of that! So, before you, or anyone else, makes you feel guilty for eating a couple extra sweets, or drinking a little more than usual, remember this:
The holidays are a festive time for celebrating, which means we often eat or drink more than usual, and that’s okay!
The important thing is that we don’t eat like this every day. It’s the daily habits that have a bigger impact on our health, not that extra slice of cheesecake you ate on New Year’s Eve!
Here are some tips on how to eat healthy during the holidays to help you feel good even after a big family dinner.
Don’t skip out on breakfast! If you normally eat breakfast, the holidays aren’t the time to change that! Eating throughout the day is important to maintain bodily functions and keep your gut functioning well. It will also keep you full throughout the day, so by the time your holiday dinner rolls around, you won’t be starved, and eat everything in sight. If you can spread out your meals and snacks over the day you are going to feel better and will feel less inclined to overindulge at dinner
Hydrate! I’m sure you knew this was coming… drinking water helps keep us hydrated which is so important! If you’re like me, I tend to drink a little more over the holidays than I normally do. Drinking wine, beer, or cocktails dehydrates us and makes us feel lousy the next day. If you’re planning on drinking at your holiday dinner, even if you’re not, be sure to drink throughout the day to keep you hydrated and feeling good. It’s also a great idea to sandwich your drinks with water, so if you have a glass of wine, have a glass of water before and after. This will help prevent you from getting dehydrated, and you can still enjoy wine with dinner, a win-win!
Dinner time… but first veggies! So now it’s time to eat and you’re either feeling very excited, or very nervous if you often find food has power over you. Here’s my favourite way to make sure I don’t over eat: first fill up half your plate with vegetables. Add the Brussel sprouts, broccoli, carrots, peas, salad…whatever you have and make that half your plate. With the rest of your plate, make one quarter of the plate protein foods like chicken, turkey, or roast. With the final quarter of your plate add starchy foods and whole grains like wild rice, pasta, potatoes, whatever you have. Now you may have a bigger plate than normal, but it is balanced and has a lot of yummy and nutritious foods that are good for you! Arranging your plate in this way will also help prevent you from feeling tired and lousy after, since you will have likely eaten less carbohydrates than if you put on the potatoes or pasta first. It’s all about balance! You may also consider the order in which you eat the foods on your plate. This holiday season, try eating your vegetables and protein foods first, these foods have lots of fibre which help keep you full. Then move on to the starches and grains, that way you’ll be able to enjoy these foods and not worry about overeating! Also, finishing off with mashed potatoes sure is my favourite!
Time for sweets! Okay so you’ve made it past dinner and you’re feeling good but you really want to try the cheesecake your sister made, and the cake, and well everything… and that’s okay! My suggestion: cut each dessert into small pieces. This will allow you to try more of the sweets without having to eat the whole thing. This will keep you from over indulging on sweets, and prevent a sugar crash in an hour from now.
Walk and talk Now that you’ve eaten the delicious food you might be feeling very full or tired. A great way to help you digest all that food is to grab your coats and go on a walk with your family, or pet. Walking after your meal will allow you to use up some of that energy that you ate, help you digest it, and is such a great way to spend time together. Take the kids or dog to the park or walk around your neighbourhood to see the Christmas lights! Being active is such a great way to spend time with your family, and you’ll feel so good after! I promise.
Now you know my 5 simple steps to eating healthy over the holidays! Try your best, but remember a couple days of eating more than usual isn’t the end of the world! It won’t mess up your progress, and is definitely not worth the guilt! If you do feel guilty, instead of letting it bring you down, use the opportunity to set intentions for your next meal or day. What foods do you want to include more of? What about less of? Did you eat too fast tonight and tomorrow morning you want to focus on eating slower and chewing more? Maybe you want to go for a walk in the morning or move more throughout the day? Think about these things next time you feel guilty, and instead of dwelling on it think about how you want to be for your next meal.
Happy holidays to you and yours!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post! My name is Kristen and I am a dietetic intern with Brescia University college and Hamilton Health Sciences. I am in the pediatric focus and am well on my way to becoming a Registered Dietitian!
Kristen DaSilva, PHEc