No matter how your family celebrates the holiday season, we all have one thing in common: there is so. much. food. From large meals shared with extended families to mugs of hot chocolate and cookies enjoyed cuddled up on the couch watching Elf for the 50th time (is that just me?!), all of these treats are delicious and should be enjoyed to the max, but sometimes overdoing it (we’ve all been there) can leave us feeling less than our best.
Often times, when thoughtful indulgence becomes mindless eating, we begin to feel sluggish, tired, or just a bit off. We may even feel like we’ve reached a point of “no return” and continue to eat in ways that don’t make us feel our best because we’ve already eaten “poorly.” (Side note: food is just food. It has no moral value. It’s not good or bad). However, when we choose to be proactive and honor our bodies, we are more likely to feel our best and have the energy to enjoy all holiday activities with our families.
Additionally, maintaining healthy eating practices throughout the season (and all year round) is a form of self-care and an opportunity to teach your children how to nourish their bodies as well. There are many ways to eat healthfully, and listening to your body can guide you to a way that works for you.
1. Focus on plants
If there’s one thing nutrition experts can agree on when it comes to choosing a healthy diet, it’s that we should all eat more vegetables and fruit. Packed with important vitamins and minerals as well as satiating fiber, produce of all kinds should form the backbone of your dietary pattern. As a guide, aim to fill about half your plate with fruits and vegetables at most meals.
2. Cook more
The benefits of cooking at home are numerous. Not only do you know exactly what’s in your food, allowing you to customize to your taste preferences, but it can also be a fun activity for the whole family to get involved in. Children love to help choose recipes and shop for ingredients. You may even find you save some money by cooking at home. Who couldn’t use a little extra cash this time of year?
3. Stay hydrated
I know — another reminder to drink more water! But really, drink more water. The winter months mean drier air in most climates, and even though the temperatures dip, your body still needs adequate water to regulate basic, but vital, functions such as temperature regulation, digestion, carrying nutrients through the body and lubricating your joints.
4. Eat normally before events
Limiting food intake before holiday parties is more likely to backfire than be beneficial. Often times, restricting food, either by type or by quantity, leads us to overeat later. You’re better off enjoying meals and snacks as you would normally prior to an event.
5. Ditch the guilt
One meal, one day, or even one week does not likely have the ability to strongly influence your long-term health. Focus on making nourishing choices most of the time and remember what you do consistently has the greatest impact on your overall health and well-being. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite treats and holiday meals without guilt.
I truly believe food is meant to be savored and that it provides us with so much more than nutrients or energy. So, remember it’s perfectly normal and perfectly acceptable to eat all the foods you want over the next few months, no questions asked.