TOP TEN 2021 Holiday Eating Tips

By EQ's Sharon, RD

1.) Make chicken…. or whatever other protein you really enjoy. A lot of times people feel obligated to make turkey for the holidays just because it’s traditional. But, if you do not like turkey, this can leave you without a protein option, and consequently loading up on carbs. If you like chicken better than turkey, make it! If you prefer ham or pernil, make it! For vegetarian guests, consider making deviled eggs – everyone needs a protein to balance out their plate.

2.) Do not try to “lighten up” holiday foods. Searching the internet for “healthier” versions of holiday favorites you’ll often find recipes that recommend using low-fat dairy products (or dairy-free) instead of full-fat dairy products to lower fat and calorie content or swapping sugar for artificial sweeteners to lower the sugar content of holiday foods. However, this can set you up for less-than-ideal dietary habits in the future. None of these changes are recommended long-term, so why even bother using them for holiday meals? Once you have these items in your house, you are more likely to continue to use them; at a minimum, using up what you bought.

3.) Limit how many sides you make. Make your holiday meals participatory by polling guests beforehand on what sides they really want to see at dinner. Make the few that everyone agrees on so that you’re not overcooking and getting stuck with a lot of leftovers.

As a Registered Dietitian, Sharon is trained to help EQ clients make changes to their dietary patterns, helping them achieve their health goals whether it be prevention or disease management. Through a collaborative effort between Sharon and the client, targeted, simple changes are identified, and lifestyle factors potentially impacting their success are sorted out.

4.) When it comes to holiday prep, get everyone involved! Often, we have plans to go for a walk after the holiday meal, but once the food coma sets in that idea becomes a distant memory. Try to get physical movement in beforehand. Many do not realize that household chores like cooking and cleaning get the body moving and burning calories. Instead of letting the family watch TV while others get the meal together, have everyone participate. Everyone can have a task whether it’s helping mix and stir, or grating down butter for a fresh pie crust, or assisting by cleaning counter surfaces and dishes as you go so that post-meal clean-up is a breeze, or vacuuming and straightening up before the guests arrive – each activity contributes movement to the day, and helps build memories as the family spends more time together.

5.) Do not feel obligated to finish everything on your plate. When it comes to the holidays, we all have a tendency to eat with our eyes. Hosts know this and won’t get offended if you don’t finish everything you take. Eat what you enjoy, and only to until you feel full.

6.) Don’t forget the 80/20 rule – it applies all year, including at the holidays. The 80/20 rule means that what you do 80% of the time will typically dictate your health, not what you do the other 20% of time. If 80% of the time you are eating healthfully, then the other 20% when you’re going to a gathering and indulging in more decadent foods, isn’t going to be a huge factor in your health. Just make sure that between gatherings you are doing the best that you can for your body, and you will be just fine!

7.) Don’t skip going around the table and saying what you’re thankful for. Gratitude leads to thoughts of positivity, and positivity is key to overall wellbeing. Don’t let thoughts of guilt (especially food guilt) or inadequacy enter your mind. Staying positive will help you meet all of your goals and is contagious to all those around you!

8.) Be mindful of what you are drinking. Sugary beverages are an easy way to over consume calories during the holidays, and they don’t often add too much enjoyment to your meals. There are roughly 100 calories in an 8 oz cup of soda and 120 calories in 8 oz of apple cider. It’s always recommended to opt for water, unsweetened coffee, or unsweetened teas instead of soda or juices. Consider this year making mulled tea for you and your guests; it’s a wonderful, warm, seasonal drink that’s low in calories.

9.) Make use of your freezer! The freezer is one of the most underrated household appliances. You don’t have to spend the next week after the holidays eating the same leftovers over and over. Most holiday foods can be frozen, and that includes sweets. Freezing leftovers not only helps avoid over consumption, as you don’t feel the need to finish what you have, but also can help you save time later. Frozen cookies, pies, and sides can easily be used for your next holiday feast or brought to a potluck – no need to cook a full meal again; just enjoy the time with your family.

10.) Holiday season unfortunately for some can be a stressful time. Managing stress is one of the most important components of managing health year-round, but even more so at the holidays, as there is a lot of temptation to stress-eat. Adopting good stress-management techniques at this time of year in combination with considering adding adaptogens to your routine such as maca or reishi mushrooms can be key and help send you into the new year feeling good.

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