How to approach your nutrition with the start of the Holiday season

The first thing I would like to say before we delve into these hints and tips for during the holiday season is this:

Even though these tips will be a guide to help make better decisions and to become more aware of the foods around us and how to view them, please don’t read this post as ‘Oh thank goodness, this should help me not crave and binge all these festive foods; Ive been stressing out about the thought of what’s going to happen’..  

This is not the purpose of this post.

STOP! Relax! Calm down,its ok!

The holiday season is a once a year celebration where we get to have fun and enjoy our time surrounded by the people we love and to create loving memories.

These meaningful relationships and memories created during this period are far more important than becoming anxious over the fact you may eat, or already ate, your Aunties well-known Christmas fruit cake more than you originally had planned. Going into the festive season with a mentality that you’re going to be surrounded by food and how you will approach this conundrum can lead to unhealthy acts such as restricting your food intake dramatically the day prior or before so you can let loose, thinking you’ve given yourself a free pass to binge when it’s time to feast.

You will soon find out that this horrible idea could result in; bloating, gassing and feeling sluggish or making yourself sick. That doesn’t sound like a fun time for anyone involved!

It’s ok if you have more food than you usually do, but do not feel guilty or ashamed; it is a once a year event and celebration. So enjoy the food and be thankful for who and what you are surrounded by.

Now we’ve got that rant over and done with, this doesn’t mean there aren’t tips or strategies that we can implement during the festive season so that we don’t fall completely off the wagon.

These are some strategies that I have used and that I have found great success with, without having to feel restricted or stressed:

1. Prioritise the order of what foods to eat – Protein and vegetables should be number one.Prioritizing these two food groups on your plate first will naturally satiate you a bit more so you do not have the desire to over-indulge on the other foods.

Why protein and vegetables?

Protein is the more satiating macronutrient compared to the 2 other major macronutrients, carbohydrates and fat. It will fill you up more. Think you could have a 2nd plate of only meat? Good luck getting through it without a challenge. Vegetables in the meantime will satiate you more due to their high fiber content. 

Bonus tip:  Personally I love doing this as I want to get my big source of vegetables in and it makes me not want to eat more than I would’ve if I hadn’t anything prior. Before going to the big lunch or dinner you can make yourself a plate of vegetables to eat. This will leave you already half satisfied when you arrive and you’ll prioritize what food/s you want to eat. Would you rather fill yourself up on the bread, or that big roast turkey?

2. Eat with mindfulness and awareness – Taking small bites and really taking notice of the texture and taste of what’s on your plate will not only make you feel more satisfied, but you’ll also enjoy the experience and take pleasure from your taste buds. Also focus on the conversations you’ll be having with the people around you, do not focus so much on the eating that you cannot hold a conversation together. 

Here are some tips:

Try not drinking during your meal, this will naturally make you cut and eat smaller pieces of food and allow you to properly chew, most times when people drink during meals, it is because they take too big of a bite and rush the food, needing the water to help wash down the food.

Counting your bites when you chew your food.

Eating back forth between your dominant and non-dominant hand.

3. The importance of drinking plenty of water – Water keeps you hydrated and naturally satiates you again like the protein and veggies. There’s no doubt most of you reading this will also have a few more alcoholic beverages than normal; because of this it isespecially important to stay hydrated between drinks and even sips. 

4. Bring, or make a healthy dish –So what to do if your family is well known for providing dishes that aren’t necessary deemed as ‘healthy’ to your standards or what you’ll normally have? Sure there may be a vegetable dish, but is there a good chance it could be drenched in dressing and sugar. Then you can be the one that supplies and brings a dish that is vegetable based with an acceptable amount of olive oil dressing and pieces of lean bacon. This will also give you a healthy option to have on your plate if you’re concerned that you won’t be seeing something as “healthy”. 

5. Eating the desserts that have the most meaning to you – What this means is, are you going to prioritize the same old chocolate and chips from the supermarket, or instead are you going to prioritize your Aunties once a year special homemade fruit cake and your grandmothers secret recipe you’ve been dying to know you whole life! You can get all the other stuff anytime of the year, but those rare family treats you get to consume, you only get to enjoy those delights once a year…..choose wisely. 

6. Going for a walk after your meal – If your family tradition is always doing some form physical activity a couple hours after the big event great! That’s this step covered. However if you’re not known to do such a thing then even the simple act of walking great helps support digestion (did you know with each step when walking, when the musclessurrounding your digestive organs are moving and contracting this helps relax the body and aid in the food being digested) but more importantly, it’s a great practice to spend quality time with your loved ones in the fresh air, building a deeper relationship when you’re not just sitting on the couch being distracted on the phone. 

So there you have it; 6 strategies that you can have a think about and add in. You don’t even have to limit these to just the holiday season, these can used in your everyday life. If you do indulge or go over the top, don’t worry! You will not gain weight just from one day (and if you do, it’ll just be water weight which will fall right off once you’re back on the track).  Just start the next day like any other day; with a purpose and back to normal. The main thing was, you enjoyed yourself, and you laughed and had good conversation with your loved ones, that’s what really matters during this time of year.

Happy holidays everyone!

– Patrick Norrie