Holiday Eating: 5 tips to enjoy the holidays and keep your nutrition goals on track

nutrition support holiday christmas season

By Gillian Ronald, Registered Dietitian & Health Coach

Happy Holidays! I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some cozy, yummy, warm holiday meals and treats. 2020 has been a very trying year - mentally, emotionally and physically. Some holiday cheer is definitely in order!

Turkey, stuffing, chocolates - whatever your holiday food preferences are, it is possible to enjoy your favourites over the holidays and not derail your nutrition goals. Here are 5 tips to help!


Holiday Eating Tip #1: Don’t restrict yourself or label food as “off-limit”

First things first - allow yourself to have whatever it is that you are craving and looking forward to. Yes, I said it.

When we see all the holiday chocolates and desserts on the table and tell ourselves a hard “no”, what usually happens is that all we can think about is the food we aren’t allowing ourselves. We try so hard to avoid the gingerbread cookies all afternoon until we cave and eat three as fast as we can. Then the guilt sets in.

You may then feel guilty for eating the cookies, and then try to “make up for it”. This could be not eating enough food later in the day, allowing yourself just a salad for dinner, or working out extra hard the next day.

This cycle ends up being so much worse for your health than those three gingerbread cookies - emotionally and physically. The bigger problem is that it never ends, because we tell ourselves that if we eat the “bad” food we must punish ourselves later on. Then this becomes the learned approach to manage our food choices.

A more positive approach would be to allow yourself to have the treat, the mashed potatoes and stuffing, or whatever “bad” food is you are craving. While you are eating it, simply be present and really enjoy it. Slow down, pay attention to how yummy it tastes and savor it.

If you want a cookie or some chocolate, go for it! Have one or two. Really enjoy them. Then move on. Put the cookies away where you cannot see them and resume your healthy eating habits at the next meal or snack.

holiday eating tips

Holiday Eating Tip #2: Heavy on protein and colourful vegetables

Source: Pinterest

When it comes to the holiday meals, my best advice as a Registered Dietitian is to keep your plate heavy on the protein (such as turkey, ham, or fish) and colourful vegetables. Half of your plate should be colorful vegetables. One quarter of your plate should be protein. 

The remaining quarter of your plate is reserved for mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, perogies, etc.

Eat your veggies and protein FIRST and then dig in to the rest. If you take your time eating, enjoy the flavors and the company, you just may find that you can eat the smaller portion of the potatoes and gravy (or whatever your holiday vice is) and feel really satisfied at end of the meal.

Don’t restrict yourself or label some foods as off limits. Simply balance your plate while dishing up to put you in a really good position with serving sizes. This really will give you the best of both worlds, and should leave you feeling proud of yourself for following a healthy holiday plan.

Holiday Eating Tip #3: Drink water in between each alcoholic beverage

If you are planning to drink alcohol, aim to have a glass of water or sparkling water in between each drink. Alcohol calories can add up quick, and also lower our inhibitions when we see the box of chocolate turtles coming around.

Holiday Eating Tip #4: Go for a walk after dinner

Stack the dishes next to the sink and encourage your family and friends to on their coats and boots and go enjoy a 30-minute walk outside to get some fresh air. This will get your metabolism and digestive system moving. Have a big glass of water or some herbal tea when you get back.

holiday eating tips - pay attention to what matters

Holiday Eating Tip #5: Pay attention to what matters most

My final and most important nutrition advice for the holidays: pay attention to what matters most. Holidays are for family, friends, laughter and cheer. Food is an integral part of our holiday traditions, but the company and joy are what truly makes us feel amazing. Staying true to your health goals will keep that amazing feeling lasting long after the holiday meals are over.

Gillian Ronald Registered Dietitian Calgary Nutrition Counselling and Support

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