Tips for eating well over the holidays

The holidays often bring joy through family and religious gatherings. However, with all the tasty food, it can seem impossible to control portions, and many experience guilt after overeating. Some tips to help enjoy feasts are to follow Canada’s Food Guide, plan treats and enjoy everything mindfully.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends trying to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and limiting protein choices and whole grains, to ¼ of your plate each. This still lets you enjoy foods you may prefer while also getting enough fiber and nutrient-dense food. For Christmas dinner, this may look like a serving of turkey, stuffing made with brown bread, then cranberries, sweet potatoes, carrots and peas filing up half the plate.

In terms of portions, try using a smaller plate and have seconds afterwards if you wish. You may realize that you are already full after a smaller plate and if that’s the case, you may feel bloated and uncomfortable after eating more. Knowing this may make it easier to stick with the right amount for you.

There are different strategies for treats, such as having them 1-2 times per week or following the 80% nutritious foods and 20% treats rule. Avoiding them completely may not be fun or realistic, and can lead to giving up and overeating with an “I don’t care anymore” mindset that you may regret afterwards. Treat yourself during special occasions! The trick is to be selective; plan to have a few of your favorites over the holidays and make nutritious choices the rest of the time.

To feel satisfied while enjoying smaller portions or fewer sweets, eat slowly and mindfully. Wolfing food down can leave you unsatisfied and wanting to go back for more, not having appreciated it the 1st time around. Instead, take the time and savor the food. Be in touch with your hunger cues, and notice whether food still tastes as good when you’re full.

Mindful eating can also apply to drinks containing sugar or alcohol. Stick mostly to calorie-free drinks like sparkling water, especially when feeling full. Though not advertised, alcohol contains calories, and sweet creamy drinks can have as many as a meal! If you choose to drink alcohol, consider adding plenty of ice to your drinks and alternate between alcohol and water. Remember to follow safety guidelines around its use as well.

Working on these strategies can help you stay in tune with your body’s needs and develop a positive relationship with food. Wishing you a worry-free season filled with warmth, love and cheer.

Michelle Broughton, RD