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Healthier Holidays

Holidays are a wonderful time to bring people together, and food often takes centre stage. However, all of the gatherings that fill the calendar between Halloween and New Year’s Day can make following healthy eating habits a challenge. Although we try to hold out as long as we can, will power often loses out. We tend to over-indulge on seemingly endless supplies of treats that are readily available everywhere we go. To make matters worse, unhealthy eating habits develop quickly and are hard to break once the season of holiday gatherings has ended. But don’t despair! Here are a few quick and easy changes to make this holiday season to help keep you on track with your healthy living goals.

First, when you’re at the party, focus on spending time with your family and friends, not hovering around the buffet table. Second, eat before you arrive. Aim for protein- and fibre-rich foods that will fill you up, give you energy and prevent you from reaching for more cookies. Try vegetables with hemp hummus or bean dip, or a handful of nuts or seeds. Finally, when it comes to the highlight of holiday celebrations—the turkey dinner—aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables instead of letting grain-based dishes like stuffing take the spotlight. As for the turkey, it should really only take up about one quarter of your plate.

Food aside, during the holidays it’s also important to remember to move your body and make physical activity a part of the fun. Exercise helps you feel better and can also help reduce the stress sometimes associated with the holidays. After a day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, you could enjoy some hot chocolate around the fire. Or try skating around an outdoor rink while enjoying the scenery. If you’re pressed for time, simply walk to the grocery store when you only have a few items to pick up or take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can. It all helps because the idea is to just keep moving.

Jess’s Turkey Tidbits: It’s a common myth that turkey makes us tired. It’s true that turkey contains a protein called tryptophan, which synthesizes into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps induce sleep. The thing is, we’re not eating nearly enough turkey to cause this effect. Besides, there are so many other foods out there that contain more tryptophan than turkey: cod, cheese, and pork for example. So what’s making you tired? It’s likely a combination of a plate full of carbohydrates (potatoes, stuffing, bread, pie etc.) and possibly the stress of cooking a big meal for so many people. Sorry, but this holiday you won’t be able to use the turkey as the excuse to avoid dish duty.

Enjoy the season, everyone. And remember, being mindful and planning ahead will allow you to enjoy those treats while keeping with your goals.

Happy Holidays!

Jess is one of the Choices Dietitians. She is passionate about education, prevention and creating healthy communities. She loves working with kids and parents, helping them develop a positive relationship with food. Jess is also happy to discuss sustainable farming practices with anyone who’s listening! Find her at Choices Yaletown on Monday evenings or contact her by email at