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Healthy Living Over the Holidays – It Is Possible!


By Jessica Collins, Registered Dietitian
Queens North Community Health Centre, Minto, NB

Holidays are a time to enjoy family, friends and food. Meals over the holidays tend to be large, buffet-style, and include multiple helpings. Sweets and treats tend to be plentiful at holiday events and gatherings. With holiday gatherings starting as early as November, it is important to be mindful of healthy living over the holidays.

ImageResearch shows North-Americans gain on average, approximately one to two pounds during the holiday season. While the weight gain is not always dramatic, research shows it tends to stick, and accumulate over the years. Post-holiday weight loss can be difficult; it is better to avoid weight gain through mindful eating in moderation, and by using a few simple strategies over the holidays.

The following tips can help you and your family make healthy choices over the holidays.

  • Eat breakfast every day. Eating a well-balanced breakfast can decrease the amount of food you eat later in the day. Prevention of overeating at an evening party can start in the morning. Try a bowl of high fibre cereal (at least 4 grams fibre per serving), with skim milk and a piece of fruit.
  • Avoid skipping meals. Do not try to compensate during the day if you know you might over-indulge at an event in the evening. Not eating throughout the day can lead to overeating later in the day. Be sure to have small nutritious snacks and meals during the day.
  • Watch out for party foods. Common party foods such as cheeses, snack crackers, bacon wrapped scallops, spring rolls, etc. are typically high in calories and fat. It is easy to eat more than you really need. Instead, choose the vegetables and fruit, with one or two indulgences.
  • Enjoy a small taste of dessert. Don't try to deprive yourself of all indulgences! When tempted by a variety of rich desserts try a few small pieces of different choices, or share a larger piece.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes. At any time of the year it is often not what you eat, but how much that can lead to overindulgence. Refer to Canada's Food Guide for a guide to serving sizes.
  • Stay active - let the holiday spirit move you! Don't let holiday events and gatherings replace exercise on your calendar. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week. Regular exercise helps to compensate for some over-indulgence, and can also help you cope with holiday stress.
  • Get your sleep. Don't let a full social-calendar interfere with a good night's sleep. Lack of sleep can increase stress and your ability to resist overindulging.

For more information on healthy living over the holiday season, please visit the links below or talk to your family physician or a health professional at your local Community Health Centre.

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