Holiday eating: How do you maintain a healthy diet?

Posted on Category:Basic Healthy Diet

Posted on 12/14/2020

As the holidays quickly approach, many of us find ourselves faced with the big challenge of trying to maintain a healthy diet during the season. Food is the centerpiece of holiday celebrations and gatherings in most cultures around the world. Even with fewer holiday gatherings taking place this year due to the pandemic, grocery stores are still flooded with holiday treats to tempt us into impulse buys.

With cookies, candies, and other goodies bombarding us, it’s easy to fall into mindless eating, pack in extra calories, and push healthy foods off of our plates. This doesn’t mean we have to abandon healthy eating habits, or miss out on the foods and traditions we love. We can practice mindfulness to avoid overeating during this indulgent time of year.

  1. Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. It sounds strange, but focusing your attention on your stomach can help you to determine how hungry or full you are. Keep in mind the idea is to avoid feeling full, which can mean you’ve already overeaten. Instead, aim to feel satisfied, which means you are no longer hungry, but have not eaten to the point that your feel stuffed. 
  2. Fill up on fruits and vegetables first. Start with nutrient dense, low-calorie produce before digging into more indulgent fair. The hungrier you are, the more likely you are to overeat high-calorie foods.
  3. Slow down and enjoy each bite. Take the time to enjoy your food by putting your focus on what you are eating and avoid distractions. Set your fork or spoon down in between bites and finish chewing before taking the next bite.
  4. Use a smaller plate. You know the saying, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” When using a big plate, we often serve up larger portions than we need. A smaller plate will appear full even with smaller portions, and force us to slow down.
  5. Choose your favorites. Avoid eating just because the food is there. Instead, choose your favorite treat to indulge in, and take the time to enjoy it. Pair your traditional foods with sides of fruit and veggies.

Other ideas to include more produce in your holiday meals:

  • Top a green salad with brightly colored fruit, such as apples, pears, pomegranate arils, and nuts like walnuts or pecans.
  • Roast winter vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, beets, turnips, or Brussels sprouts seasoned with olive oil, fresh/dried herbs, and salt and pepper for an easy, delicious side dish.
  • Bake apples or pears with cinnamon and drizzle with a little honey for a sweet treat.
  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables cleaned and easily accessible to snack on instead of cookies and candies.
  • Try these delicious and nutritious holiday-inspired recipes.

The most important thing this holiday season is to safely enjoy time and traditions with loved ones. Our holidays might not look the same this year with masks, social distancing, or virtual celebrations, but we can still find gratitude and practice healthy, mindful eating.

These tips were provided by Heather Dyson, MS, RDN, LDN, a WVU Medicine registered dietitian.