How to Indulge During the Holidays—Without Going OverboardOct 29, 2020 01:40PM ● By Max Mc Crory
’Tis the season for indulgent meals and desserts galore! While the holidays are wonderful, sometimes all of the fatty foods leave you feeling bloated. By including more fresh vegetables and whole grains in your meal and practicing portion control, you can focus on feeling good and enjoying the time with your family.
Snacking during the holidays is inevitable. You do it while you’re waiting for the turkey to be ready or while presents are being opened. Nutritionist and dietician Nicole Connor of Zest Wellness and Nutrition Consulting LLC, says this is natural and to let yourself snack.
“A big thing that I try to work on with people is setting realistic expectations for themselves. It's the holidays, and sometimes having that Christmas cookie is what you really want, so give yourself some leeway but also make a plan to try not to go overboard,” she said.
Connor suggests opting for healthier, filling foods like fruits, vegetables or nuts. She suggest prepping a bowl of your favorite fruits and vegetables to snack on throughout the day or to take with you to your family holiday gathering. If you can’t avoid the cream cheese dip, just make sure you’re being mindful of how much you eat. This also goes for the other fatty foods that you might find on the holiday dinner table. It’s a cliché for a reason, but Connor agreed: moderation is key in any diet.
“I am big into eating slowly, without distractions. Try to really chew and savor the foods that you normally wouldn't let yourself have and take small portions and wait before having more,” she said.
“The main things are sugar and butter or other fatty meat/dairy products during the holidays. These are okay in moderation, and it's important to try to avoid being deprived or it's going to be difficult to keep up,” she added.
Connor also noted that the holidays can be a stressful time of year for some people and sometimes this can affect their dietary habits. She suggests taking a few deep breaths before you start eating. This can help to prompt relaxation, and it’ll help you keep your focus on your plate and how much food you’re actually consuming.
She added that it’s okay to ask for smaller portions. If you have to say no thanks to that extra scoop of mashed potatoes or the bigger piece of pie, that’s 100 percent all right. You shouldn’t feel guilty.
“Don't feel the need to cave in to pressure to eat more than you need or want to. That can be another tricky thing. It's okay to say no or to ask for a small portion. You also don't have to finish something just because it's on your plate,” Connor said.
As for healthy alternatives, Connor recommends adding vegetables to any dish that you can. She’ll usually mix in cauliflower with regular mashed potatoes or zucchini noodles with her pasta, believing that it helps to preserve the taste and texture of the dish, while adding that both dishes are also delicious on their own. Another favorite dish of hers is mac and cheese, but she adds butternut squash in place of the butter. She also suggests using low-fat milk and cheese, which makes the dish healthier.
Connor adds that winter salads can be a great way to mix some greens and fiber into your diet. She suggests a spinach and arugula salad with quinoa, pomegranate seeds, mandarins, walnuts, red onion, and goat cheese. One of her go-to recipes, she says that it keeps her full and satisfied during the winter months. This would be a great option to have during the holidays, as it’s light and refreshing, compared to the other heavier dishes on the table.
Winter squash soup is another staple in Connor’s home during the winter months. Soups are extremely filling and incorporate vegetables that you might not normally eat. She also said you can also use yogurt or low-fat sour cream in place of heavy cream to decrease the fat.
There are many benefits to having a vegetable-forward diet. Connor said that she noticed that people tend to have more energy and feel lighter. She also said a flexitarian diet (a diet consisting of mostly vegetables, but with the occasional meal of fish or meat) can help prevent chronic disease.
“Once you learn to cook that way and to use vegetables, herbs, and citrus to create all these amazing flavors, you learn to create really delicious, flavorful recipes that are also light and healthy,” she said.
And these tips are not just for holidays—healthy food practices will help you make better choices year-round.