Healthy Eating (and Living) over the Holidays

Healthy eating and the holiday season don’t always go hand in hand and it’s almost upon us. And for all the good things that may bring, it is also a time when good cheer can lead to overindulgence in foods that do not support our healthiest, most vibrant selves. Your NEX Wellness naturopaths in Burlington and Binbrook offer the following tips for avoiding overeating, and digestive upset and regret this December — while preventing unwanted weight gain and optimizing immune function for cold and flu season come January. Bonus: These strategies will also help keep inflammation at bay, hormone levels balanced and stress levels down.

Follow the same healthy eating principles you would year-round. Avoid processed foods, pastries and other sugary desserts; alcoholic drinks and pop; wheat and starchy foods; and excess dairy. Instead choose a variety of nutrient-dense, colourful vegetables, proteins from lean or vegetarian sources, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. And if you’re going to drink alcohol, choose red wine or distilled liquors in moderation.

Follow the 80/20 rule. Better still is the 90/10 rule — if you are eating well 90% of the time, you can likely afford a small indulgence once in awhile over the holidays. But if and when you do indulge, pick just one thing in a given day — either have a small dessert OR enjoy a few selections from the cheese tray, ideally not both.

Swap it out. Love eggnog and fruitcake at this time of year? There are plenty of healthy ways to capture the flavours of traditional holiday favourites without compromising nutrition. Search online for gluten and dairy free versions of classics, and baking blogs that substitute healthier sugars and flour. Whether you’re responsible for one dish at a potluck, or a full holiday menu, make it as healthy as possible — your friends and guests will be thankful you did!

Eat first and early. If you are heading to a late-night party, eat nutritiously before you go so you will be far less likely to pile up your plate. If you are hosting the party, plan to have food out early so you and your guests have plenty of time to digest before bedtime.

Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of clean water between and before meals and you will be less likely to over indulge.

Practice mindful eating. Be mindful of what — and how much — you put on your plate. Make friends, family and good conversation, rather than food, the focus of gatherings. When you do eat, choose wisely, remembering to make non-starchy vegetables the largest portion of your meal. Enjoy and savour good food at a single sitting, rather than nibbling constantly throughout the occasion.

Choose, choose again. If you do take a wrong turn at a given meal, be kind to yourself and remember that you can always choose again next time. Try and not let one poor choice become an excuse to keep overindulging.

Keep up your regular exercise routine. Remember to prioritize exercise during the holiday season. Whether it is yoga and fitness classes, weightlifting, or an outdoor sport, boosting feel-good endorphins through exercise will also help you release and fend off the additional stress of the holidays. If you do find yourself eating more than you usually do, go for an extra class or a walk to (literally and figuratively) balance the scales.

Remember what the holidays are really all about. And finally, remember that the holidays are holy-days — in their essence a time of light, joy, peace and stillness. Put down your to-do list (and your fork) long enough to spend quiet, quality time doing what you love with the people you love.

With these few simple strategies in mind, you can enjoy a meaningful holiday season and get the new year off to the best possible start.

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