Healthy Holidays:
Finding the Balance
5 Tips from a Dietitian
by Jenna Romanelli

Is it just me or does it feel like the holidays arrive quicker each year?

Maybe you just got into a good routine with healthy eating and movement. Maybe you have been telling yourself you are going to start “next Monday” for a year. Regardless of where you are on your health journey, a change in routine is inevitable for most of us during the holidays.

Instead of the usual socialization on the weekends, now your weeknights are jam packed with any and every excuse for a gathering. Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, and Boxing Day, gift exchanges, breakfast with Santa, tree lightings, baking parties, holiday travel, Christmas, Hannukah, New Year’s celebrations…the list goes on and on.

This endless list of events can make the holidays a trying time for consistent habits and balanced nutrition. The holidays present increased opportunities for events that revolve around food and alcohol. More often than not, we find ourselves surrounded by fried foods, sugary sweets and any excuse to get into the holiday ‘spirit.’ Even though the holidays are a special time of year to celebrate and spend time with our loved ones, these changes in routine can present challenges.

I am here to help you navigate the holidays using a simple approach, allowing you to spend your time and energy celebrating and enjoying the season without the added stress and guilt related to food. Here are my 5 tips to finding balance for healthy holidays.

1. Set Your Intention

Take some time to reflect on what the holidays mean to you and how you want to experience this time of year. What do you look forward to the most? What kind of memories do you want to create? However this looks for you, create the picture in your mind and cultivate your vision. Setting your intention will set the stage for your holiday habits.

2. Ditch Food Rules

You know exactly what rules I am talking about – “fill up on vegetables,” “eat before the party so you aren’t tempted,” “carbs are off limits,’ and so on. These restrictions have one guaranteed result – they will backfire. When we deny access to our favorite foods, there’s potential for binging and overeating. Instead, try shifting your mentality around food, tune into your body, trust your “gut” (literally), and implement mindful/intuitive eating practices.

3. Practice Mindful/Intuitive Eating

Our gut and our brain have a direct line of communication between them. If we actually take the time to listen to the cues our gut sends our brain, and vice versa, you will be amazed at the outcome. With the excitement and busy schedule during the holidays, it is easy to find ourselves mindlessly eating. Focusing on mindful eating habits during this time might include checking in with your hunger and satiety cues, taking time to reflect on stress and emotions and properly address them, and returning back to your intentions you set before the holidays began.

4. Build A Balanced Plate

Nutrition should be simple and attainable. Stop overcomplicating it. Stop looking for a quick fix. There is no secret approach or magic pill. You don’t need to weigh your food, track your calories, or count your macros. Focus on creating a balanced plate by filling ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate with lean protein, and a ¼ of your plate with whole grains and starchy vegetables.

5. Remember To Enjoy Yourself

This is my favorite part! Sit down and take the time to actually enjoy your meal, your time with friends and family, and the nutrients you are giving your body!