Healthy Eating During the Holidays

Krista Laich
Dietary Manager
Southern Hills Skilled Nursing & Rehab Center

In the words of Andy Williams, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Tis’ the season for celebrating and with any celebration comes food – and lots of it. While celebrations may have looked a little different than in years prior due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the holidays are typically the time of year that family and friends gather to share gifts, traditions and meals. Many American’s believe that “holiday weight gain” is inevitable. Here is some advice for smart holiday eating, while still being able to enjoy yourself.

Preparation and Priorities

holiday healthy eatingJust like with anything else, it all starts with preparation. Believe it or not, there are steps that you can take BEFORE attending a holiday party or gathering that have been proven to help point you in the direction to succeed. First and foremost, keep it moving! Routine exercise is one of the most effective ways to combat “holiday weight gain” and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many of us tend to shy away from physical activity this time of year due to having added stress and obligations on our plate. Have some downtime to kill before you start cooking or your party begins? Instead of lounging on the couch with your favorite holiday movie on the TV, go for a brief walk around your neighborhood to check out the festive décor and lights on display. You can even suggest that a friend or family member joins you! Prioritizing movement or daily exercise in your schedule, despite the busyness of the holiday season, can be your secret weapon to avoiding any unwanted weight gain.

Another important tip to remember when looking to eat healthy during the holidays: Don’t set out on an empty tank. This is not referring to the gasoline that makes your car run, but the “fuel” that our bodies get from food in order to function properly. Health experts recommend eating a small, nutritious meal that includes protein and complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables prior to setting out to your holiday event. By filling up your belly with healthy foods beforehand, you are less likely to overindulge in the high calorie “comfort foods” and desserts that are typically staple plates at these holiday events.

Budget Your Calories

Similar to the budget most Americans place on their holiday shopping expenses, it is important to make an effort to budget your calories. When doing so, be sure you are including those holiday cocktails or seasonal coffee drinks you might be consuming! Many don’t realize or tend to forget how quickly the calories in these types of alcoholic or sugary beverages can add up. If you know that you typically fill up on appetizers before the meal is served, practice your social distancing from the d’oeuvres table and instead use this as a time to socialize. When it comes time to eat, the key to success is to monitor your portion control. It’s okay to be picky, you are allowed to skip out on trying that new casserole your friend made if it does not appeal to you. A good rule of thumb when trying to watch your portion sizes is start by filling up half of your plate with fruits and veggies, leaving the other half available for smaller portions of foods that you enjoy such as meats, breads, dairy and desserts. If you’re one to prefer the holiday desserts, maybe skip out on the other carbs in the buffet line such as potatoes. After returning to your seat to now enjoy the delicious holiday food that makes up your plate, remind yourself to take it slow. Studies have shown that it takes at least 20 minutes before your brain is able to realize that your stomach is full. By slowing down your eating, you may not have room for the seconds you rushed to get back in line for which will help prevent you from overindulging.

As humans, none of us are perfect. You had that extra slice of pie that surpassed your calorie budget? It happens and it is okay. One day or meal of overindulgence will not make or break your waistline. Don’t give up on your attempt to maintain your healthy diet or become discouraged if you slipped up. Get yourself back on track and commit to making healthier