Food is life in the South, and that rings truer during the holiday season, which might feature deep-fried turkey, a dressing recipe passed down through the years, and desserts like pies, cakes, cookies and more.
Maintaining healthy eating habits can feel daunting in the face of such annual decadence, but Carmen Alexis Miller, MS, RDN, LDN, outpatient dietitian at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, offers some perspective. She recommends that we start first with behaviors around eating and then look at healthier food choices.
Reality Check — Enjoy the Season
No single meal or day of eating will cause permanent damage to your health. Your everyday eating and activity patterns will determine your health and success on achieving your health-related goals. Don’t let overthinking about food cause you to miss out on time with family and friends.
…But Don’t Go Overboard
Of course, overindulging or binging on holiday foods isn’t a good idea Stick to your normal eating patterns and regular mealtimes as much as you can. Don’t skip breakfast just to double up at a big holiday lunch.
Listen to your body while you eat. Check in with your fullness signals, stopping halfway through your meal to ask, “Have I had enough? Can I stop here?” Stop eating before you feel overly full.
With football games on the TV all day and waiting for the big meal, some families pass the time by drinking alcohol. Remember those calories count too. Often alcoholic drinks include added sugar and carbonation, which can sometimes uncomfortably expand your stomach or even make you feel hungrier than if you didn’t drink.
Keep the Family Recipes and Incorporate Healthier Options
No one’s going to mess with Aunt Louise’s baked mac and cheese, but there might be ways to add in more fresh fruits and vegetables to the rest of the menu. Bonus points for locally sourced meats and farm-fresh produce. We’ve also got some ideas for healthier swaps for some holiday favorites in our infographic.
When you’re planning your holiday menu or any meal, Miller recommends checking out eatingwell.com, a website run by dietitians and health professionals that is chock-full of meal plans and recipes.
After a big meal in which tryptophan-heavy turkey is the star supported by all the carbs, it’s important to move your body, even just a little bit. Even a 10-minute light walk can help digestion move along and help blood sugar levels even out.
We wish you a magical holiday season that includes time with family and friends and great eats to fuel your body, mind and spirit.