The Most Delicious Time of the Year
Just as Buddy from Elf says “elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup,” we humans seem to have the same philosophy during the holiday season. There is a view that healthy habits and enjoying the holidays are mutually exclusive. Festive gatherings offer the best of savory and sweet, and we down twice the volume of treats than usual in the blink of a twinkling eye. There are no holiday songs about carrots dancing like sugarplums or Santa eating cookies in moderation. But why can’t we eat healthfully while still taking part in “the happiest season of all”? Maybe we could enjoy the festivities even more if we didn’t fall into a food coma after every meal.
The same nutrition tips recommended for the other eleven months of the year can be applied here:
- Substitutions. When making holiday recipes, look for ways to make your creations healthier. Swapping low-sodium broth for regular broth, low-fat cream cheese for full-fat, Greek yogurt for sour cream, or whole-wheat flour for white are just a few options.
- Planning. The “most wonderful time of the year” also seems to be the most stressful, in terms of time management. Doing a little research a few days before the office potluck can prevent that last minute dash to the nearest bakery. Search healthy recipes online—then make your grocery list and check it twice.
- Moderation. Eating well does not mean completely avoiding every dish that looks delicious. If you want to have a piece of pie, by all means, put it on your plate! Select a small portion to try and then reassess if you want to go back for seconds. Often our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and small samples of each item from the buffet usually add up to a full plate.
- Support. Chances are, you are not the only one who struggles with food during the holidays. Find a friend or family member who can share accountability with you.
- Balance. Keep your goals in mind, but don’t let them take over your social calendar. Remember that good nutrition is not about extreme dieting, sacrificing your favorite foods, or excluding yourself from the party to avoid temptation.
The journey to healthy living is a gradual one, made by implementing small but consistent changes in behavior. Pick one or two reasonable goals and do your best to reach them daily. Most of all, enjoy this season of celebration. The whole point of being healthy is to live well.
Juliana Baird, RD, LD