Enjoying Holiday Treats Without a Side of Guilt

By Amanda Benson, RDN
Family enjoying holiday dinner laughing - Vitality

Most articles you find this time of year are about cutting calories from your favorite holiday recipes or how to avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain. While these may be well-intended and the headlines are certainly attention-grabbing, there’s a better message to be spread and more helpful tips to be shared.

After all, the holidays only come around once a year. Why not allow yourself to indulge without any guilt? In nearly every culture, food plays an important and symbolic role. Food is used as a form of celebration and can have deep meaning associated with it, especially around the holidays.

It is possible to enjoy the holidays without restriction or dieting, or having to swap out your favorite recipes for healthier alternatives, while not sacrificing your health and happiness… and here are my top five tips for how to do so:

  1. Eat balanced meals and/or snacks leading up to your holiday gatherings – if you try to “save up” your calories for later, it will backfire. When you’re overly hungry you feel out of control around food and end up eating until you’re beyond stuffed (which is not a fun way to feel). Instead, showing up with a content tummy will allow you to make sensible choices and enjoy some of your favorite foods without overdoing it.
  2. Add color and nourishment to your plate – rather than focusing on what foods you should limit or avoid, think of what you can ADD to your plate to enhance the nutritional quality of your meal. This will allow you to enjoy your favorite foods while also giving your body what it needs. For example, make sure to add steamed or roasted vegetables, a side salad or fruit salad to your plate.
  3. Be mindful of your hunger cues and feelings of fullness – turn inward and try to listen to your body when it comes to what, when, and how much to eat. If you’re feeling hungry, eat something! When you start to feel satisfied, slow down and stop eating before you reach the point of uncomfortable fullness.
  4. Move your body – you’ll have more energy, get better sleep, improve your mood, and lower your stress levels, all of which can be especially important this time of year. Don’t focus on calorie burn or exercising to earn your next meal. Just try to get active in ways you enjoy and focus on how much better it makes you FEEL. Also, anything is better than nothing so even if you only have time for a quick 10-minute walk… do it!
  5. …and lastly, don’t forget to drink plenty of water!

Remember, what you do consistently over time is what matters. Your health and nutrition status won’t instantly be ruined because of one meal or one day of eating. So go ahead and enjoy this holiday season, without a side of guilt!

Amanda Benson is a Registered Dietitian and Wellness Strategy Manager with Vitality. She received her BS in nutrition at Michigan State University and completed her dietetic internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. When she’s not chasing around her two young children, she enjoys relaxing with a hot cup of coffee, running, attending concerts with her husband, and wine nights with girlfriends.

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