The holiday season is officially here!
Halloween kicked it off this week, and we’ll continue eating our way through the next two months. Food is what brings us together at this time of year. Around a table, we count our blessings but not necessarily our calories. We raise a glass (or 5) of wine/champagne/eggnog to family and friends as we exchange gifts or ring in the New Year but forget to pick up the weights or get on a treadmill. So, it’s a great time to level set on how beneficial or harmful food can be and how you can navigate the holidays by fueling your body the right way.
Last month, I attended the Food and Nutrition Conference held by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It was amazing and eye opening and somewhat life changing for me. I learned so much and I also found myself more resolute in my decision to pursue a degree in dietetics and help as many women as I possibly can. Even with all the new information I possessed, I was pleased to walk away with more validation of what I already knew – that food has power. Power to heal; power to hurt; power to bring people together and power to drag us down. And, as such a powerful force in our world, we need to better understand the relationship of our overall health and food.
As you get ready to create memories around your dining room table this holiday season, let’s do a little myth busting so you go into the holidays with a plate that makes you healthier.
Mythbusters: Holiday Edition
Myth #1: A calorie is a calorie.
Fact: All calories are not the same. And if you eat calories that are void of nutritional value you will end up eating more calories in the long run. Think of it this way…if you eat a doughnut and a large specialty coffee drink topped with whipped cream, you are consuming a lot of calories of sugar that will burn quickly and leave you hungry. Eat the same amount of calories in a breakfast of eggs, turkey sausage and a whole grain English muffin and I promise you’ll be happy until lunch. Choose foods you’ll get the most from. High in fiber, protein, healthy fats. Steer clear of refined carbs (white flour carbs), added sugars or artificial sweeteners, and saturated fat.
Holiday Tip: Be prepared! Eat before you go somewhere that you know will have lots of tempting treats but ones that may not be in your nutrition plan. Take a healthy dish/dessert/side. And, not just a veggie tray! Get creative with healthy desserts that use avocado or make a healthier dip with Greek yogurt.
Myth #2: ______(Insert nutrient) is the enemy so I’m not eating any ______ over the holidays!
Fact: No nutrient is the enemy. Carbs, fat and protein are essential to being healthy. ALL of them. Your body needs fat to protect your cells, provide insulation and help absorb vitamins like A, D, K, and E. Carbohydrates are your body (and brain’s) primary fuel source. If you do any kind of exercise, carbohydrates enable you to perform well. And, finally protein is critical to your everyday life. It is one of the building blocks of tissue, muscle, bones, cartilage and skin. It is used to create important hormones and enzymes in the body as well.
It’s quality over quantity when it comes to these nutrients. Pick foods that are rich in unsaturated fat, whole grain/high fiber carbs and lean protein.
Holiday Tip: Be aware. Fill up half your plate with veggies that are not covered in sauce, cheese, or butter. Then, choose lean, white meat turkey or pork, smaller portions of beef and lower sodium ham. Bring the whole grain rolls or a healthy side dish and go ahead and have dessert if you’ve chosen an otherwise healthy dinner!
Myth #3: I can work off that mound of stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, or plate of cookies at spin class tomorrow!
Fact: You CANNOT outrun/walk/lift/spin poor choices. I’m sure you’ve seen the infographics showing how long it takes to burn off one margarita or a Big Mac. It’s shocking and it’s true! And, when you think about how the average holiday dinner can be upwards of 2000 calories (that’s not a typo), you would have to spend the ENTIRE next day working out to burn that off. Add to it that most of us OVERestimate how many calories we burn when exercising and UNDERestimate how many calories we eat. And, we still can’t figure out why our pants are tight January 1.
Holiday Tip: Be realistic with your calories and your exercise. Get a heartrate monitor to truly measure what you burn while working out. Do your workout BEFORE you go to a holiday gathering. You’ll be less likely to “ruin” what you’ve already accomplished vs. thinking you can make up for it later. Know what you’re putting on your plate. Do the research ahead of time. A buttered roll is 200 calories. A piece of apple pie is 400. If you know that your spin class burned off 400 calories, treat yourself with a 200-calorie portion of sweet potato casserole (1/2 cup) or a glass of red wine (6 oz = 150 calories) but don’t give yourself license to eat the roll, apple pie, and 3 glasses of wine. If you are normally disciplined and workout a lot, one high calorie meal won’t kill you, but the cumulative effect over the entire holiday season can impact your waistline even if you do exercise regularly.
It Doesn’t Have to be Difficult or Overwhelming
The holidays are all about bringing loved ones together around a table to share in good food and make great memories. I’m not suggesting you sit in the corner with a plate of celery and hummus. But I am saying “pace yourself” – it’s a long holiday season and if you over-indulge at every event, it will catch up to you in weight gain, loss of energy and a general feeling of blah. Stay focused on your wellness goals (even if it’s just to maintain your weight) so that when January comes around you don’t feel like you have to start all over again.
Want more structure to your holiday eating game plan? Need accountability over the holidays? I can be that coach who reminds you what to eat, when to eat it and keep you focused on your goals.
Let’s chat before the first holiday meal is here!