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Tips for merry and mindful holiday eating

Photo by Nicole Michalou on Pexels

‘Tis the season for celebrations and holiday gatherings, but all this revelry can put a wrench in our schedules and eating habits.

There’s also the worry that holiday eating will cause weight gain. In fact, studies show that eating during the holidays contributes to less than one kilogram of weight gain in most – insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

However, when life circumstances change our schedules and eating habits, we might find ourselves straying from the routines we value and consider healthy. Therefore, a mindset of control is an important one. And thinking about the aspects of your nutrition you can maintain during this time of year is worth a great deal more than you might credit yourself for.

Say no to dieting

This is not the time of year to start a diet or restrict your eating pattern. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to ensure you eat regular and balanced meals that include protein, whole grain carbohydrates, and vegetables and fruit. Arriving to a party famished will leave you vulnerable to overeating, so plan ahead of time. Specifically, eat nutritious snacks before going to a party or social gathering so you arrive well-nourished, energetic, and with a more discerning perspective on what to choose.

Focus on fresh

Offer to bring a nutritious and delicious food tray, appetizer, or dessert to a holiday gathering that aligns with your nutrition goals. As long as the plate or platter is colourful and tasty, you will be surprised how many people will choose what you’ve brought over other more processed options. Many people welcome a plate of freshly assembled ingredients over a bowl of salty snacks.

Easy on the alcohol

When it comes to alcohol, this is the time of year when people tend to overindulge. It’s easy to drink more alcohol when it’s mixed into festive and sweetened drinks, so be mindful of  your limit and choose fruit-infused water, hot teas, and other non-alcoholic beverages to balance your alcohol intake. Of all the food components, alcohol tends to contribute the most to creating fullness without offering much nutrition.

Get outside

Mix up your holiday visits with some walks and outdoor activities to connect with those you care about in other ways, rather than just over food. Although food is an amazing medium, so is a forest walk, a snow sport, or a visit in the winter garden with friends and family alike. The outdoors offer a great variety of benefits to health above and beyond physical activity. Enjoy this time of year for its offerings!

Look to the future

Finally, make this the time of year where you reflect on your learnings and set health goals for the new year that are centred around self-compassion rather than restriction. Remember that most of us may not get enough fibre, calcium, fruits and vegetables. A balance of all foods, a varied culinary approach, and a curiosity to try new (perhaps cultural) dishes is what joyful eating is all about.

By Dani Renouf, Registered Dietitian at St. Paul’s Hospital.

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