Maintaining Wellness during the Holidays
Julie Fortenberry, RD, LDN
When we think of the holiday season, celebrating with family and friends may be the first thing that comes to mind. For many this also means a time for over-eating, guilt and weight gain. By implementing a few simple tips you can stay healthy through the holidays and still enjoy the season.
It is important to prepare for dealing with possible nutritional setbacks, as they are an inevitable part of life (especially this time of year). No matter how hard we try, the reality is we are not perfect – nor should we be. It is important to have a plan in place so that when we do slip, we are able to get back on track without sliding so far down that “unhealthy” slope.
Know yourself and your limits. Give yourself (a little) slack this time of year. The key is finding the balance. Ask yourself “would I be ok with gaining one pound after the holidays?” How about 10 pounds?”
Whether you are looking to just maintain weight or have hopes continuing with a weight loss journey, planning ahead is essential during the upcoming weeks. And in New Orleans, let’s be honest – it’s longer with Mardi Gras extending our holiday season well into February!
Follow these 7 tips for holiday health during this busy time of year
- Bring a healthy dish to share.
You may be surprised at how many people are appreciative and very interested in trying a healthy dish at holiday gatherings. This also ensures there will be something there that is on your plan. This may be as simple as a beautiful winter salad or a bag of local satsumas (great hostess gift by the way!)
- Remember the importance of protein, fiber and quality fats.
We tend to overdue sugar during the holidays, and skimp on the foods that will actually keep us satisfied. Pile your plate with meats and any vegetables available – this will help regulate your blood sugars and keep you feeling full longer. This also helps to have a clearer mind when passing the dessert table vs. feeling desperate, hungry and impulsive.
- Determine your limits and set realistic expectations for yourself.
If you are someone who will fall off the deep end after a single bite of pecan pie, then maybe you should not take that bite. If you are someone who finds great pleasure in having a piece of pecan pie on a holiday, and you are confident it will not throw you off into the vicious cycle of out of control eating, then maybe you should embrace it. Know yourself and determine what is acceptable for you and what is not. Thinking about this early on will help prepare you for in the moment decisions.
- Do not try to “makeover” your absolute favorite holiday dish.
If there is a dish that you wait for every single year because you love it so much (think Mama’s oyster dressing or Grandma’s green bean casserole), let’s just go with the original. Sure, there are plenty of ways to possibly make it healthier, but the original version will make you so very happy. Enjoy a small serving of the real deal and make nutritional changes to other dishes if you choose.
- Do not keep tempting foods in your house.
If you overindulge at a party, that is one thing, but daily overindulgence is another. Assume that what you have in your house will eventually go into your body (especially when you are tired, emotional or hungry). Keeping unhealthy food in your home puts thoughts and temptation in your mind and is simply too difficult for anyone’s willpower. Make your home a nutritious safe haven for you and your family. Send the extras home with others, or make a drop off to a family in need.
- Fresh start at the next meal or snack.
So things did not go as well as planned? Well pick yourself up and start over! Do not let one setback throw you off the deep end. The journey to health is exactly that, a journey, and making lifestyle changes is about learning how to deal with the ups and downs along the way. Believe in yourself and that you are capable of not letting one or ten slip-ups prevent you from being the healthy person you want to be.
- Take the focus off of food when possible.
It is amazing to me how much of what we love this time of year is centered around food. Start new family traditions that do not involve creating lingering food habits. Turn candy and cookie making time into non-edible projects like making wreaths, art decorations for the family or making an ornament. Plan group activities with family and friends that are not all about food. Try playing games or going on a walking tour of decorated homes.
Julie Fortenberry, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian at Touro Infirmary. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Southern Mississippi. Julie believes that lifestyle changes and wholesome nutrition are obtainable, and brings real-life understanding to wellness and nutritional counseling.