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Healthy Holiday Nutrition

Healthy Holiday Nutrition

With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas fast approaching many people may be stressed out about their unhealthy holiday eating and lack of physical activity. In fact some are likely already contemplating their New Year’s resolutions to “get back on track” with an extremely strict diet and a new gym membership. This is also the time of year when we get bombarded with all sorts of crazy advice on how to avoid gaining weight during the holidays. Some of the craziest things I’ve heard include 1) eating a full meal before you go to those holiday gatherings so you won’t be hungry at the party 2) burning at least 1,000 extra calories a day so you are able to eat more food without gaining weight and 3) my personal favorite, avoiding all foods that contain sugar and fat. While these may be effective for weight management, I think most would agree that they are a bit extreme, unrealistic and simply not fun. Luckily, all of these measures can be avoided with a few realistic tweaks to your current eating approach during the holidays and beyond.

Be Realistic

The holiday season is all about gathering with friends and family. You will likely be presented with some pretty tasty holiday foods as well. Instead of vowing not to eat your favorite “fill in the blank” this year, try being realistic about the foods that you are likely going to eat because you enjoy them. Instead of feeling any guilt or shame or regret, try simply deciding which foods you plan to splurge on and how much you plan to eat beforehand. Setting realistic expectations for yourself and sticking with your plan can help you avoid the negative emotion that propels some people into a “binge on everything because I restricted the whole day” situation.

Avoid Extremes

Most holiday damage control efforts include strict or extreme rules about food. Instead of doing anything extreme during or after the holidays, try one of my tricks to avoid over-doing it. Think of your food choices throughout the day as a “bank.” You have a certain amount of money (calories) to spend (eat) each day to stay within your budget (daily energy needs) without going over (eating more calories than you need). What items are you going to choose to eat while staying within budget? Do those items on average and collectively have enough nutrients and energy to sustain all of your human needs? If not, what kinds of foods might you swap in or out to make this analogy true? Can you “budget” for some nutrient-poor splurges on the day of your big holiday party and try to get more nutrient-dense foods in the next day? The goal is to eat mostly healthy foods on most days, but know that good human nutrition is an average over time.

“Just as eating a salad for one meal won’t make you instantly healthy, eating your favorite dessert won’t make you instantly unhealthy.”

It’s the daily habits over time that really matter when it comes to good nutrition, not the single day events. Keep your overall nutrition plan focused on eating mostly plant-based, nutrient-rich whole foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and small amounts of lean proteins. If you eat this way most of the time, you can account for the holiday splurges when they come around each year.

Keep Some Routine

We know that there are going to be things out of our control during the holidays. Perhaps your normal patterns will be thrown off in the midst of holiday gatherings and shopping. When one thing changes in our typical routine, it is easy to justify throwing in the towel on all of our healthy habits, which can easily lead us on a path to continued poor lifestyle choices. Try to keep at least one healthy routine the same throughout the holidays, whether it’s going for a walk with the dog, doing a morning meditation or writing in a gratitude journal these can all help you feel more grounded during times of chaos.

Did you enjoy this article? Are you interested in bringing these tips to your employees? Now you can easily share expert tips with your employees with WELCOA’s employee facing Life On the Move employee wellness portal. Not only can employees easily track their physical activity using devices, they can also access expert written wellbeing modules, compete with others, assess their current health habits and support their coworkers.

These Healthy Holiday Nutrition tips are brought to you by WELCOA’s Marketing/Product Coordinator and Registered Dietitian, Kaitlyn Pauly. 

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