How to (Healthfully) Navigate the Holidays | West University Moms

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The holidays are oftentimes equal parts gratitude, excitement, and stress. It can be challenging to stay grounded and look after ourselves this time of year. How can we prepare for the sensory overload?

Today, our registered dietitian Emma Hulse shares her top tips to balance nourishing our bodies with enjoying festive indulgences.(Hint: it’s possible!)

Splendid Spoon: What healthy routines can we build now and stick to throughout the holidays?

Emma Hulse: Before the holidays begin, increase your focus on eating an overall balanced, nourishing, and mainly plant-based diet. My general rule is that 80% of what I eat has to be nutritious food, and the remaining 20% can be treats.

The holidays can be overwhelming with all the social gatherings and indulgent foods that go along with them. Having a good foundation and healthy habits in place can mitigate the excessiveness! Try to stick to the 80:20 rule throughout this period.

SS: We want to treat ourselves over the holidays. How can we do so without overindulging?

EH: It’s important to treat yourself all year long! Never indulging often leads to overindulging. We should practice mindfulness when it comes to treats: watch portion sizes, eat more nutritious foods first, and really focus on the treat when you do have one.

SS: How can we build a nourishing plate of food from a typical holiday offering?

EH: Start with the veggies and fruit; even if the plant-based options aren’t the healthiest, they still contain vegetables! Half your plate should always be filled with vegetables.

Remember to watch the liquid calories e.g. alcohol! Drinks are often the forgotten item. Start with water, and alternate between water and the caloric beverage.

SS: How do you prioritize sticking to your healthy routines during this hectic season?

EH: I try to incorporate health into all my holiday activities, and include my family and friends! For instance, every year, my friends and I participate in a 5 mile Turkey Trot run before we leave to meet our families.

Last year, Christmas was mainly vegetarian (except for the turkey); it was really fun to challenge my family to come up with plant-based options.

SS: If we overindulge one day, what can we do to counter this?

EH: It’s important not be too hard on yourself in regards to overindulgent behavior. Focus on the present and future. Don’t skip a meal after indulging. Instead, aim to eat more nutritious, plant-based meals moving forward.

SS: Is there any single food, habit, or drink we should always avoid?

EH: Food is neither good nor bad, so nothing should be avoided (except for trans-fat)! Moderation and portion sizes are what you should focus on throughout the holidays.

SS: Should we create routines and ground rules to stick to?

EH: Meal planning is a great ground rule to stick to over the holidays. Take time to plan what you’ll be eating through this hectic time. Knowing what you’re eating ahead of time ensures that you’ll make no last minute unhealthy choices.

Also, create and stick to a plan during every holiday event. For example, prepare your body by eating a small, high-fiber snack before a party, so you’re not starving when you arrive.

SS: What do you do to stay healthy and relaxed over this period?

EH: I make it a priority to move more. It helps me burn more calories and boosts my mood. I also shift my focus from the food to family and friends. Yes, the holidays are stressful, but try to concentrate on the joy of being social and connecting with others.

SS: Do you detox after the holidays?

EH: I always feel like a detox is a form of punishment for overindulging. A healthy lifestyle is a holistic approach to eating; sometimes you overindulge, other times you eat more healthful foods. Finding a balance between the two — and never staying in either extreme — makes a healthy lifestyle.


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