Holiday Eating Tips from Dr. Swanz

November is here and as we head into the holidays this is the perfect time for me to share some important concepts regarding food and nutrition. The holiday months are often a stretch where individuals just throw in the towel and consider the season a food free for all. Folks will wait to the new year and then pledge to start eating healthy all over again. I think the season is a fantastic missed opportunity to actually move in the opposite direction. Because our eating is going to diverge from the norm significantly during the holidays, it provides an opportunity to change our nutritional habits. If we embrace this moment we can not only eat the holiday meals we want, we can also feel delighted that we are two months ahead on our New Year’s resolution and laying a foundation for a healthy year to come.

Eat a warm, balanced breakfast every day. The morning meal stokes the body’s metabolism and every day we should strive to eat a warm breakfast. Eggs are incredibly easy to prepare and can be a wonderful pallet for adding servings of vegetables before you even leave your house. During the holidays, a warm protein packed, balanced breakfast will provide a stable blood sugar level and energy to sustain one until the large holiday meal without having to snack excessively on the seasonal treats. It also is important to have a nutritional breakfast the morning following a holiday meal that is particularly high in calories, grains, carbohydrates, and sugars. This will bring us back on track so that we can more easily have a normal eating day even with all the leftovers in the house.

Be sure and consume protein with every meal and/or snack. Protein is crucial for balancing blood sugar levels, stabilizing insulin, and maintaining good energy levels throughout the day. This is a key component of the naturopathic nutritional guidelines I share with my patients. When we eat in a manner that balances blood sugars, we help to protect our adrenals from excess stress, we minimize the storage of consumed foods as fats, we lower our systemic inflammation, and we generally feel better throughout the day. These benefits will continue to apply during the holidays. If we focus just a little bit more on eating healthy proteins and veggies during the big meals while decreasing the portion sizes of processed carbohydrates, grain products, sugars, and sweets we just might not need the long nap after eating with our families and friends.

Avoid becoming judgemental when eating holiday treats. I have said over and over again that foods are neither good or bad on their own accord. It is the quantity, frequency, and relationship we have with a given food that ultimately determines if it is beneficial or detrimental to our overall health. The holidays provide ample opportunities for the consumption of sweet treats and the seasonal traditions foster a feeling of acceptance when eating them. This is a time of year when even the iron-willed individual will often indulge in a slice of pie. I think this time of acceptance can be a slippery slope for many and so it is imperative to keep in perspective that there is no shortage of cakes, pies, cookies, fudge, and candies; there is no need to eat them all at once or even every day. They are seasonal staples to be enjoyed with our loved ones at holiday meals. My suggestion would be to consider making (or purchasing) smaller size desserts so as to avoid having leftover sweets in house for weeks at a time. Also try and limit dessert consumption to 1 or 2 days a week. This is another general recommendation that if carried through the year can allow us to indulge in our favorite treats while simultaneously modeling a healthy relationship with sweets to our friends and family. At our home we normally eat dessert after Wednesday and Saturday dinner.

I encourage everyone to consider following these simple concepts throughout the holiday season. It can lead to a more balanced and less stressful few months while increasing our energy and starting us well on our way to the healthiest 2021 we can have. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, thank you so much for reading and embracing my ideas about health and nutrition. I wish everyone a wonderful wrap up of 2020 and all the best for next year.

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