Rachel Turi, RD
Navigating the Holidays
Navigating nutrition during the holidays can be tough...there's food, drinks, and treats all over the place. While that is half the fun of the holidays, it can make us feel less than ideal if we take it to the extreme for the full month or two from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I'm here to provide you some food for thought as you enter the holiday season.
No matter how hard we try, there will be things we can't and shouldn't try to control such as what food is served at Holiday parties. I honestly believe we shouldn't have to worry about what we are eating constantly around the holidays. It can contribute an added and unnecessary stress to the holidays and an altered relationship with food and family. We should be free to enjoy and have fun without stressing about it too much. With that said, I do think it is a good idea to focus on balanced and mindful eating to an extent. I will remind you that a part of balanced eating includes the pumpkin pie, the buttery mashed potatoes, and the hot cocoa :) Focus on your nutrition goals during the days and meals that you have control over. Not EVERY day is Thanksgiving or Christmas, right? There are plenty of days to still focus on portion control and a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, and other highly nutritious options. This way, the days that are filled with more indulgent foods can be fully enjoyed with zero hesitation!
Nevertheless, there are the actual holidays themselves along with some other potential gatherings and holiday parties. This year will be different, that is certain. Gatherings will be small or virtual and we will likely not be attending as many dinner parties, cookie exchanges, and cocktail hours, nor will we be subject to cookies around every corner of the office if working from home. However, it is still important to remember some of the same concepts this holiday season that we would consider in a "normal" year. All that being said, when you are navigating the holidays this or any year, keep these ideas in mind.
1.) Focus on the people/celebration rather than the food. Go to the party for the purpose of celebrating someone or something and not for the sole purpose of eating.
2.) Eye up the deserts, and decide if any of them look good to you. If there is a special dessert, then go for it! But if none of the desserts offered are special to you, skip it. Nobody says you have to eat the dessert if you don't love it.
3.) Once the food comes out, survey it and decide what you are going to eat before grabbing food if you can. Make one plate to start. Try to still have a bit of everything- the veggie and fruit options as well as the protein and carbohydrate-based options. Having one full plate rather than grazing or having multiple small plates is very helpful in controlling how much we eat. If we just keep going back for a little bit of food at a time we are likely to eat much more than is necessary and it results in being uncomfortably full.
4.) Allow yourself to have some of the things that really catch your eye and are special. If you try to resist, they will tempt you all day and you'll be more likely to give in and then overeat that particular food. Whereas, if you had just allowed yourself to eat it in the first place you would have been likely to eat a normal sized portion.
5.) Skip the foods that you don't love. No need to end up uncomfortable over the foods that you don't actually enjoy! Pick your favorites.
6.) If you drink alcohol there, choose lighter options rather than the sugar filled beverages, and alternate between alcohol and water. Nobody wants a tummy ache to dampen their holiday!
7.) Keep YOUR nutrition and performance goals in mind while there. Other people may not have the same goals as you, so keep yours in mind and ignore what others are doing/eating.
8.) Avoid having the mindset of "well I ruined today because I ate a couple cookies, so I might as well just have have 8 more treats to keep it going and I'll start over tomorrow." It is easy to think that one miss means you should just go wild the rest of the day or for the few days afterwards. But realistically, one or two extra pieces of pie for a day isn't going to make us gain weight. But one or two extra pieces of pie every day or 10 extra pieces in one day could. Allow yourself to have the extra and indulgent things every once in a while and remind yourself that it is okay and it doesn't mean you messed up the whole day or week.
9.) Try to keep in mind that just because you have several holiday parties and gatherings throughout the month doesn't mean that every day has to be treated that way. They say the average person adds on 5 pounds throughout the holiday season. But that is because they have the mindset of "I will just get back on track after the holidays so I might as well ignore nutrition for the whole month of December." Practice balanced and mindful nutrition most of the time, but it is okay to be more lax at the actual parties/gatherings.
Happy Holidays and Happy Fueling, my friends!