28 Nov 2019
The Nutritionist’s guide to not just surviving…but THRIVING through the Holidays!
28 Nov 2019
Did you know that of all the major religious and spiritual traditions on earth, there are at least 29 different holidays celebrated between Nov. 1 and Jan 15 …that is a lot of celebrating, which means for a lot of us this time of year is incredibly busy!
Not only are we busy but we are often faced with a lot of food focused events. Trying to navigate through the wine and cheeses, company parties, and family dinners can leave us feeling overwhelmed. Today I hope to give you a few tips to make you feel more in charge of your holiday season.
Holiday seasons only come once a year so it is tempting to give in to the temptation to over indulge. I like to create a plan that is balanced so that you feel like you have enjoyed Aunt Sally’s shortbread and maintained some healthy habits as well. One month of the year should not set you up to struggle for the remainder of the next year.
If you Fail to Plan …you plan to fail
I know that sounds harsh but it is true, the people who make it through the holiday season feeling like they succeed all have this in common – they have planned for that success!
Here are some tips to include in your plan.
- Sit down with your calendar and make sure all of your special events are in the calendar. This way you know where the food challenges are going to be.
- Take some time before you get busy to make some healthy meals to put in the freezer – chilis, stews, and soups are all great options. So when you are having a busy week you can pull out something healthy and don’t have to worry about cooking.
- Make sure you also plan for some quiet time. It can be easy to get over scheduled at the holidays which leaves you tired, run down and more likely to make poor food choices. No one can make good choices when they are exhausted! Plan at least one night a week to be at home and indulge in your favourite type of self care- a holiday movie with a loved one, a candle lit bath, a herbal tea and a good book…..whatever it is, treat it as important as all your commitments to other people. Making yourself a priority over the holidays will ensure that you have the ability to show up for others as things get busy.
- Ensure you have what you need to keep your immune system healthy – with the late nights, crowded parties and excess sugary treats, your immune system is going to be working overtime during the season. Make sure you are thinking preventatively by eating lots of fruits and veggies, making some lemon ginger tea and adding lots of garlic and onions to your food. All of these foods have vital nutrients in them for your immune function. If you want to get set up with a good immune boosting supplement or meal plan, visit a Nutritionist at Natural Choice Medical Clinic.
How to Eat the Day of a Big Event?
You’ve made your plans for the holiday season and now its the day of your first party …what are some tips for balancing enjoying the treats and staying on track?
First of all, this is where it’s really important to remember that if you have a lifestyle plan and not a strict diet you are going to be way more successful in the long run. A lifestyle plan allows for there to be ebbs, flows and balance, where as a diet is too prescriptive and almost always leads to short term success and then a crash! If you are tired of bouncing from diet to diet, this would be a great time to book an appointment with a Nutritionist, like myself to start to create a sustainable lifestyle plan.
On the day of a party I suggest you ask yourself, “Is there a certain food at this party that I have waited all year to enjoy?” If the answer is yes, then I want you to enjoy it! No guilt, no shame. Then make sure you take that into account with the rest of what you are eating that day. If you know you will be indulging at dinner, try a smoothie for breakfast, and a salad with chicken for lunch …that way you are on track for some deliciousness! Don’t let your day just happen to you. You know you are going to be eating something rich and decadent for dinner, this isn’t the day to mindlessly eat pizza for lunch or hit the drive thru for breakfast.
If the party you are headed to doesn’t hold any favourite food traditions but is more of an obligation event I suggest that you plan to eat a balanced plate. Skip the appetizers and aim for the veggie tray instead. Pass on the bread basket at dinner and focus on protein and vegetables for your main. Practice the “is it a 10” rule when it comes to dessert – what that means is if your dessert option isn’t absolutely amazing, pass on it. This is the time of year where you know there will be another delicious dessert available at the next party on your calendar so no need to eat treats that aren’t absolutely yummy.
When we plan to incorporate the treats we look forward to all year and balance that with healthy foods the rest of the time we really can get through the holidays without feeling like we’ve lost control.
When It’s Not A Joyful Time
I also think it is important to talk about when the holiday season is not the perfect hollywood movie image. Often times we are alone when we would prefer to be with family, or we are with family that is challenging to be around. Here are a few tips for managing the tough times.
Recognize what you need to do to keep yourself well. Can you say no to events that will be full of conflict? Or only go to part of them, perhaps you don’t need to go home for 5 days, you can shorten your trip, or spend part of it at an AirBNB or with other friends. Setting healthy boundaries can make the time you are with challenging family easier. In terms of food, make sure you pack or pick up some of the foods that you need to keep yourself feeling good. If you need your smoothie in the morning instead of the big family meal, make sure you have what you need on hand. Or offer to prepare a meal while you are away, or part of the meal each night to ensure that your health needs are met.
If you find yourself alone, try to see it as an opportunity to treat yourself well. If you have a favourite dish, make it for yourself – or reach out to others who are also alone to see if you can share a meal. Make a plan that includes getting out, even if it is for a quiet hike in the snow. If each day can have at least one thing in it that you look forward to, a bath, a walk, a brand new book then you can see the joy in the small things. If you know the holidays are a struggle for you each year consider doing something different, go away if you are able, opt out of the holiday movie watching binge, make sure the freezer has some healthy options so if you are feeling down you still can have a healthy meal without having to cook.
The biggest similarity of all of the tips above is that thriving through the holiday season is about making a plan when you are less busy or overwhelmed to support yourself through the times when things get crazy or down for you. With some conscious effort now you can set yourself up for a holiday season that sees you eating well, feeling peace and connecting with loved ones in a way that leaves you feeling the true blessings of the holidays.
Wishing you health and happiness this holiday season!
Kathryn O’Brien, MHSc, RNCP, Registered Nutritionist
Photo by Anita Austvika on Unsplash
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