Holidays are a wonderful time to bring people together and food is often the center of attention. However, eating healthy during the holiday season can be a challenge. Not only does it last several months, beginning with Halloween and ending at New Year’s Day, but we also tend to over-indulge, as treats are plentiful. Unfortunately, unhealthy eating habits develop quickly and are hard to break once the season has ended, so here are some tips to keep you on track with your healthy living goals. Let’s start with the biggest meal of the holiday season.
For those who celebrate the holidays with a turkey dinner try making half your plate vegetables instead of letting grains take the spotlight and a quarter of your plate being the turkey. It’s a common myth that turkey can make us tired, but the truth is it’s actually the plate full of carbohydrates (potatoes, stuffing, bread, pie etc) that’s doing the job. Turkey contains a protein called tryptophan, which synthesizes into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin probably sounds familiar – it’s the neurotransmitter associated with anti-depressant medication because it affects our mood as well as behaviour, appetite, and sleep. To be more specific – it induces sleep, hence the connection between turkey and sleepiness. However, we are not eating enough turkey to cause this effect and there are so many other foods out there that contain MORE tryptophan than turkey, such as: cod, cheese, and pork. So, what’s making you tired? Probably the stress of having to cook such a big meal for so many people or simply eating a large portion of carbohydrates. Sorry, you can’t use the turkey anymore to avoid dish duty!
All those parties and get-togethers that fill the calendar between Halloween and New Year’s Day can be a real test of your willpower. But lets give your willpower a break by making these small, quick and easy changes. At the party spend time with your family and friends – not around the buffet table. Another thing you can try is eating before arriving. Aim for protein and fiber rich foods as these will fill you up, give you energy and prevent you from reaching for more cookies. Try vegetables with hemp hummus or bean dip, or a handful of nuts or seeds.
Even though there is a focus on food during the holidays it is also important not to forget about moving your body. Make physical activity a part of the holiday fun. As an added bonus exercise can also reduce stress. Enjoy some hot chocolate around the fire after a day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Try skating around an outdoor rink while enjoying the scenery. No time? How about walking to the grocery store when you only have a few items to pick up, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work? Just keep moving.
Enjoy the season – being mindful and planning ahead will allow you to enjoy those treats while keeping with your goals.
Jess is a Registered Dietitian working in Vancouver, BC. She is registered with the College of Dietitians of British Columbia and is an active member of Dietitians of Canada. Jess graduated from the University of British Columbia’s Food Nutrition and Health program, and completed her dietetic internship with Provincial Health Services Authority after finishing a Psychology degree from Simon Fraser University. Jess is passionate about education, prevention and creating a healthy community. In her spare time she updates her personal food blog where she discusses hot topics in nutrition. She loves working with kids and parents helping them create a positive relationship with food and enjoys discussing sustainable farming practices with anyone who will listen!