Originally written for Daily Hive Vancouver.
T his is a wonderful time of year where we get to celebrate family, friends, culture, and of course, food! Unfortunately, for some, this time of year can bring up a lot of the stress and anxieties that come with being surrounded by temptations.
It’s important to remember that we eat food not only for the nutrition it provides but also for the happiness it brings and the memories it creates. With the right tools, we can indulge this season, while continuing to eat well to nourish our bodies and our minds.
Start by ditching the mindset of good and bad foods, or the mindset of clean eating and “not-so” clean eating. By labelling foods as good or bad, you can leave yourself feeling guilty and not fully enjoying those indulgences that are meant to bring you tons of pleasure. All foods fit in a healthy diet in moderation. Focus on choosing foods that nourish your body more often, as well as choosing treats that nourish your mind and soul in moderation. Giving yourself permission to indulge will prevent the development of negative feelings towards food.
The holidays are a very busy time: work deadlines, finding your loved ones that perfect gift, and balancing social events. This can lead to skipping meals and relying on fast food because there just isn’t enough time in the day. Set yourself up for success by planning your meals ahead of time. Secondly, keep snacks on hand to ensure you’re not letting yourself get too hungry, which can lead to making less healthy choices. To feel more satisfied, include a protein in these snacks, such as roasted chickpeas, or Greek yogurt.
The Healthy Plate Guide encourages us to fill half of our plate with vegetables, a quarter of our plate with a protein, and a quarter with whole grains or starchy vegetables. Yes, surprisingly this can even be done during the holidays! Now it may be difficult to fill half your plate with vegetables if the only vegetables in sight are a sad looking raw vegetable platter. For potlucks, use this as an opportunity to bring a seasonal vegetable dish or your favourite salad. After loading up on the vegetables, grab some protein, for example, turkey, shrimp, roast beef, or chickpeas. Lastly, fill the remaining quarter of your plate with starches, such as baked yams, roasted potatoes, or a whole wheat bun. By starting the event with a nourishing, balanced meal, you’ll only need a few of your favourite treats afterwards to feel satisfied.
Now that you’re satisfied from your balanced meal, it’s time to choose some treats amongst what is likely to be a very wide variety. Remember that just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to have it! This is the perfect time to check in with your body and ask yourself what you are truly craving and what tastes good to you. Now is the time to pick your favourite holiday item that you’ve been waiting for all year long, and that brings your pleasure.
Holiday drinks can quickly displace our appetite for nourishing foods. Try having a glass of water between every fun holiday drink, alcoholic or not. By alternating, you’ll still get to enjoy the experience of holiday eggnog without drinking it to quench your thirst alone, and you'll be able stay hydrated at the same time.
That holiday food coma, we’ve all been there. Just because you may have ignored your fullness cues and perhaps over-indulged at a meal doesn't mean you should feel guilty, it's really only one meal. In the grand scheme of things it's no big deal, and if anything, think of all the positives you gained from that yummy holiday experience. You can get back to feeling your best at the very next meal by practicing mindful eating and choosing foods that energize you and make you feel good!
With everything else going on there doesn’t seem to be much time left for exercise. Find ways to move your body in a way that is enjoyable to you and makes you feel good, rather than using it as a punishment for what you ate the day before. Try incorporating it into your holiday fun by going for a walk after dinner as a family, or trying a new seasonal activity like snowshoeing or ice skating.
Remember, just like the rest of the year, it is all about balance and moderation. Continue to choose foods that nourish your body, and treat yourself from time to time because food should be a fun and enjoyable part of our lives! Happy Holidays!