The Holiday Eating Survival Guide

Posted by: Nita Sharda, Registered Dietitian, Carrots & Cake

December: it’s here.. For many of us (myself included) this time of the year can pose as quite the challenge with grocery stores bursting with sparkly cookies, sugar dense pies, and the bounty of filling appetizers awaiting you at every holiday party. And that’s just the food. We also see sugar-laden drinks being marketed, and alcohol consumption can also increase past our “non-holiday norm”. Does this sound all too familiar? You’re not alone, it happens to most of us every year.

The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s are filled with endless food festivities and socializing. Whether it’s dining out, going to a holiday party, or seeing treats everywhere from the office to your local grocer, the holiday season can be challenging to navigate… especially when you want to feed your body well. But I’m here to offer up some tips to help make this season all about the love and family!

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Tip #1: Relax, it’s the holiday season. This time will come just as quickly as it passes. Don’t get bogged down with calorie counting and compensating for over-indulgence by skipping meals, guzzling water, or going to the gym two times a day. This type of self-sabotaging behavior can actually be harmful to our mind and spirit. Recognize that this truly is a time to connect with your friends, family, and peers. Put down the nutrition labels and be with your loved ones.

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Tip #2: Sip smart. It’s important to not get carried away by assuming you can make up for months of non or minimal drinking and load up with copious amounts of alcohol. We all know far too well that too many drinks + drinking too quickly = (definitely) paying for it later on. When you look at calories per gram, carbohydrates and protein offer 4 kcal per gram. Alcohol, on the other hand, offers about 7 kcal per gram. This just goes to show that the “empty calories” alcohol promises can really add up. Try an alternate alcoholic drink with lower-calorie beverages (club soda and lime or water with lemon). A glass of red wine or eggnog is nice but stick to the recommended drinking guidelines to stay ahead of the game.

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Tip #3: Keep on keeping on, and continue with structured eating. Don’t skip meals in lieu of an upcoming potluck or dinner gathering. It’s tried and true: skipping meals will more likely lead to overeating later in the day. This type of rationalization doesn’t work. Instead, eat well-balanced meals that offer fibre and protein. Fibre and protein work together in the body to delay gastric emptying; that means you stay full for longer! If you really can’t stomach the idea of balanced meals then focus more on consuming balanced snacks. Small steps ultimately lead to sustainable changes.

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Tip #4: Pace yourself. I get it. I’ve been there: you’re in front of a gorgeous table brimming with yummy food. You want to try everything, but know you probably shouldn’t. What’s a person to do? Tread slowly, really take time to chew your food and wait 30 seconds between each bite (it’s a great chance to chat with that old friend as you work on your food!). This allows you to savour what you’ve put in your mouth and also encourages you to “check in” with yourself. Before reaching for seconds (or thirds) ask yourself, “How am I feeling? Am I hungry? Am I full?” Guiding yourself through these questions can offer you a lot of guidance. Oh, and fun fact: it can take twenty minutes for your tummy to communicate to your brain that you’re full. So, slow down!

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Tip #5: Practice the “half your plate” mantra. It’s no secret that Canadians have a difficult time meeting their fruit and veggie requirements. Instead of placing all the emphasis on your meat or dessert at the dinner table, glorify your fruits and veggies! Incorporate cucumber sticks, broccoli flowerets, carrot curls and red and green peppers to beautify your meals. Serve veggies with hummus, cubed cheese, or fresh salsa. Commit to serving a tray of fresh fruit as a dessert option. Seasonal fresh fruit is always refreshing – think pomegranate, mandarins, grapes, and persimmons! For more ideas visit the Half Your Plate website.

If you’re still feeling a little lost when it comes to making the best nutrition choice for you, get help! Contact a Registered Dietitian who can work with you so you can enjoy the holiday season!

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