Every year, the holiday season brings feelings of joy, giving and love. Along with these, of course, come holiday parties and gatherings that overflow with delightfully tempting food and drink, from cookies and pies to eggnog and mulled cider. Occasional treats are part of a healthy lifestyle, and the holidays are certainly an occasion to enjoy traditional favorites. But how do we help clients make it all fit and maintain a healthy balance? This year, advise clients and patients to treat themselves with nutritious meals and snacks and to balance out the season’s festive indulgences with physical activity. After all, what is more heartwarming than a healthy heart?
Having been to quite a few holiday parties in the past, you know what to expect: a banquet table piled high with food and drink, including both old favorites and new delights. Help your clients avoid falling into this overconsumption trap by employing these simple, balanced nutrition strategies leading up to the events of the season:
1) Eat regularly throughout the day.
Parties and holiday gatherings often fall in the evening, but even though we know they’ll be stocked with treats, it is not a good idea to “save up” calories by eating less or not eating at all beforehand. The body naturally reacts to prolonged periods of inadequate caloric intake by prompting it to eat more than it normally would. Advise clients to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day so as to avoid overindulging in the evening.
2) Don’t skimp on breakfast!
Research clearly indicates that starting the day with a solid breakfast can help keep hunger at manageable levels, which makes it easier not to overeat and may help in maintaining a healthy weight (1). Advise clients to forego the holiday cinnamon roll if possible, in favor of some fruits or vegetables and a good source of protein, like eggs or nonfat Greek yogurt.
Suggest clients try this recipe for Easy Eggs Florentine with Baby Spinach and Goat Cheese (2).
3) Portion out your plate.
Whether it’s a meal, a snack or a tasting of items from a holiday spread, advise clients to put together a reasonably portioned plate. At least half of a balanced plate is covered by fruits and vegetables, a quarter by a protein source and the remaining quarter by carbohydrate sources like whole grain bread, brown rice or potatoes.
4) Keep healthy snacks within arm’s reach.
During the holidays, cookies and candies have a propensity to accumulate on the office desk and the kitchen counter, ready for easy grazing. To counter this tendency, advise clients to keep healthy snack options on hand at all times. Some great options include:
- Trail mix with nuts, popcorn and dried fruit
- Whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese and apples or grapes
- Veggies and hummus or spinach dip
Even with the perfect nutrition plan, holiday indulgences can add up. Help clients stay balanced despite holiday treats by recommending they include daily physical activity in their holiday schedules. Remind clients that exercise does not have to be at the gym; it can also be part of the holiday fun! Family and friends can stay active together by going for a walk to scope out the neighborhood’s holiday decorations, playing in the snow, organizing a pick-up football game or anything else that gets the group moving. There will be plenty of time for sitting by the fire, so advise clients to get up and be active every day, as it invigorates the body while also keeping it in energy balance.
Do you have other great tips for clients and patients around the holidays?
What do you do to manage the treats and temptations around every corner at this time of year?
We’d love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
- Jacubowicz D et al. Meal time and composition influence ghrelin levels, appetite scores and weight loss maintenance in overweight and obese adults. Steroids. 2012; 77(4):323-31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22178258. Accessed December 2, 2013.
- Easy eggs Florentine with baby spinach and goat cheese. Martha Stewart web site. http://www.marthastewart.com/315483/easy-eggs-florentine-with-baby-spinach-a?czone=entertaining%2Fholiday-entertaining%2Fholidaycenter-menus&gallery=275554&slide=281592¢er=1009062. Updated 2013. Accessed November 26, 2013.