This post was written by Katie Fulk, MA, RDN, LD, community outreach dietitian, Parkview Health.
By definition, the word “indulge” means to yield to the desire, so by all means, mindfully enjoy your holiday cookies and seasonal sweet treats. If you are generally healthy, your diet should never leave you feeling restricted. Respect your cravings. Don’t suppress them because this can make them even stronger. But holiday season or not, properly nourishing yourself is about finding a balance that works for you. It’s best if you try to aim for nourishing foods most of the time so you can enjoy your favorite fun foods some of the time.
Preparation before the festivities
Okay, let’s yell it from the rooftops, “YOU NEED TO EAT A NOURISHING BREAKFAST!” But in all seriousness, breakfast is vital because you are literally “breaking the fast.” It is the day’s most important meal, even during the holiday season. So, before heading out, start your day with a nutritious breakfast. Do your best to regularly include at least three of the five food groups – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat milk (or a fortified soy version). Then, on occasion, you can enjoy your favorite sweet treats. Eating breakfast will also help you stay satisfied until your next meal or snack, preventing you from overeating beyond the point of comfortable fullness.
Mindful ways to enjoy yourself during the celebration
It’s easy to get swept up in the festive fare lining the tables, but while you’re out and about celebrating the season, try incorporating a few of these tips to keep from completely going off the rails:
- Stick to a schedule – Eating your meals on a schedule, or roughly at the same time each day, can help your body better understand the different levels of hunger and fullness. If you celebrate at noon, that leaves plenty of time for a wholesome breakfast beforehand. Keeping this schedule during the holidays will help prevent overindulging when it is time to eat at a dinner party.
- Rest is best – When you lack enough quality sleep, your hunger and fullness hormones get very confused. Ghrelin, your hunger hormone, raises and makes you feel hungry. Leptin, your fullness hormone, lowers, making it difficult for your brain to understand when you’ve reached a comfortable level of fullness.
- Take delight in your dessert – Eat the sweet treat and ENJOY IT! Properly nourishing yourself is about finding a healthy balance in your diet for both the good-for-you foods and the fun foods.
- Make moderation your mantra – Remember, no food or drink should be “off-limits” unless you are allergic, have an unpleasant reaction or causes bodily harm. Remember, everything in moderation, including moderation itself.
Healthful strategies for getting back on track
Nobody’s perfect. We’ve all overeaten or gone a little overboard while partaking in holiday festivities, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Try these strategies to get back on track and reset after an overindulgent celebration:
- Start right away – It is never too late to choose nourishing foods. Don’t wait until Monday or the first of the year to get back on track. Instead, start small by making healthy food choices at your next snack or meal.
- Aim for five a day – Fruits and vegetables are incredibly important. You should get five total servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A diet rich in produce provides our bodies with the necessary nutrients to support our immune system and other vital bodily functions.
- Get a jump on your hydration – Drinking enough water is essential and helps our bodies function at their best. Our organs need water to function properly. Our heart needs it to beat, lungs to breathe, and brain to think! Enjoy sugary beverages as a treat but make it your goal to rethink your drink and choose water most of the time!
As you celebrate the holidays, savor your meals with loved ones, free of distractions like television, cell phones and other electronic devices. Research shows sharing a meal and eating together helps to strengthen relationships, increases communication, supports emotional well-being and encourages the consumption of more fruits and vegetables and mindful portion control. Lastly, food is just a small part of what makes the holiday season magical. During this busy time of year, allow yourself to mindfully enjoy those holiday treats without guilt while creating lasting memories.