Finding Food Balance in the Holidays


It can be a difficult time of year for many people who are learning to make better food choices, want to lose weight, (or just maintain weight), or who react to many foods. It can also be a challenging time for those of us who prefer healthier foods and eat really well most of the time, but when confronted with different choices and outside of the normal routine, find ourselves eating things we normally wouldn’t even be tempted by!


I am a healthy eater most of the time, but this Christmas I will be visiting family in the eastern states- a big family reunion this Christmas- and there will be plenty of foods and drinks I wouldn’t normally eat. Will I indulge? You betcha- but I do have quite a few healthy habits up my sleeve to temper my indulgences, and I want to share them. Hopefully they will help someone else get through a bit better than they might have otherwise. 


Make your choices in advance


If you’re going to an event or meal where the options are available online, scope them out. Most restaurants, cafes and even catering companies will have menus online for you to view. Choose what you want before you arrive, so you’re less tempted by what others are ordering or the scents around you. You can also phone ahead and ask if they will do a special meal for you- perhaps gluten free, or without grains for example. Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want- most restaurants will go to some extent to cater for you. 

Also, you might like to make some decisions up front about what you will and won’t eat over this season- and be gentle with yourself. Being too strict can result in binging and self-blame, and being overindulgent can also lead to poor health consequences that may make the season less enjoyable overall as well. 


Start off nutrient-dense

If you’re at an event with a buffet table, you can enjoy a few treats. But it’s best to start with one plate of nutrient-dense choices first. Grab a good quality protein, high-fibre carbohydrates and some fresh veggies before you hit up the dessert table. For example, at a buffet I would usually start with fish or whatever protein took my fancy, then pile my plate with vegetables. I don’t eat many grains but I might if they had brown rice, for example- I always skip the white rice, even with curries. Then I would go back to fruit as my main dessert and THEN I might indulge in a small piece of some treat. 

Know the consequences

It’s important to know how foods affect you, and make your choices based on those. For example, you might choose to eat a gluten-filled cake if it only gives you a mild tummy ache. But if you know it’s going to make you violently ill, you’ll probably want to avoid it.

Gluten does not affect me in any immediate way that I can feel, but I avoid it because I have an autoimmune condition that evidence shows benefits from avoiding gluten. And its easy for me to avoid it most of the time. But at Christmas? Maybe I will have a small piece of Christmas pudding made by my aunt, along with some hard sauce, because this is a family recipe that I love.

It’s okay to communicate the reason for your choices with others. If your grandmother, mother-in-law or mother (or anyone) is pushing a dish on you, you can simply say ‘thank you, but X food makes me sick’.  It is your body, and they are not living in it, suffering the consequences- you are. 


Choose your indulgences

Have you ever munched through a chunk of fruitcake, only to remember that you don’t really like it? You’re not alone. During the holidays, it’s common for people to accept plates of food they don’t really enjoy. 

But this is one area where you want to be picky. After all, we absorb more nutrition from food we enjoy, so you might as well go for a delicious option. When you’re faced with a variety of food options, choose one or two of your absolute favourites, and leave the rest.

When you do have a treat that you enjoy, being present and mindful will make the experience far more enjoyable. By savouring each bite, you’re less likely to overconsume and feel guilty about it afterwards. So take your time with your holiday favourites.

Stay active

It’s easy to get sluggish as the weather heats up and the year comes to a close. But staying active is just as important for your wellbeing as what you eat. So find ways to incorporate movement into your holiday plans. You could look at options such as:

  • ïSwimming on hot days

  • ïGoing for an evening walk after a large meal

  • ïTaking the family (or partner or friends) to the park after breakfast

  • ïBuying presents for the family that are more active, such as totem tennis poles

  • ïSchedule in a weekly exercise class over the holidays

Last month I wrote about Liver Loving Tips for the Party Season and this also has some good ideas for how to manage in this season. 

And in previous years I have written 12 Tips for a Healthier Christmas Season  and A Healthier Christmas and Holiday Season

Also, I highly recommend checking out my Resources page for some links to healthy eating websites that will have some good recipes for Christmas- its always good to take something you will enjoy to a pot luck, so that there is at least something you can eat freely there! Other

And if in the New Year you are ready for a New Year of vitality and wellbeing, and would like to have some support for getting on track with that, give me a call in a message, or make an appointment straight into my online calendar