It’s possible: Eat, drink and be merry — while still keeping nutrition in mind over the holidays

Dec. 24, 2002

This paid piece is sponsored by Profile by Sanford. 

Holiday week is here and whether you’re home for the duration, attending a small gathering or dining out, it’s still possible to keep a healthy diet in mind while indulging.

We caught up with Profile by Sanford lead dietician Alyssa Burnison who shared some common-sense strategies for navigating the week ahead.

Let’s say you’re homebound for your holiday celebration. And maybe it’s still tempting to want to have a lot of food around as though you’re hosting a bigger celebration. What are some things to keep in mind as you’re creating your holiday meals?

I think it’s always important that we find enjoyment in our holiday meals. In other words, don’t allow food to have power over your enjoyment during this holiday season! One day or one weekend celebration isn’t going to completely derail your efforts toward a healthy diet. When you’re making your meals, simply create your favorites, knowing you usually get them only once a year. Ensure you’re still getting a variety of nutritious foods, including vegetables and lean proteins. Or get creative with your traditional recipes, and swap in more nutrient-dense ingredients to boost your vegetable or fiber intake. Think about your portion sizes, and tune into your hunger and fullness cues.

Many of us will still be dining out or maybe doing a to-go order from restaurants. Are there some go-to items on many restaurant menus you could stick to in order to go healthier? Or maybe avoid?

Some go-to tips when dining out while sticking to your nutrition goals would be to:

  • Pick a fiber-rich starch like a whole grain bun, quinoa or sweet potato.
  • Get more color on your plate by filling half of it with non-starchy vegetables or substitute vegetables or a side salad for the standard potato side dish.
  • Be sauce-savvy and ask for sauces, toppings and dressings on the side.
  • Look for dishes that contain words like grilled, baked, steamed or sauteed versus those with the words fried, breaded, crispy or crunchy.

Same thing with beverages. Even though our cocktail parties aren’t so much, we’re still doing Zoom happy hours, and we know sales at liquor stores have been strong. What do you suggest if you want to keep the adult-beverage intake from derailing your calorie goals?

If you decide to drink alcohol, go in with a plan on how many cocktails you will stick to, while drinking water in between – keeping in mind that moderation is one drink for women and two drinks for men. It’s also important to think about what type of alcohol you’re drinking and what you’re adding to it. Many pre-mixed cocktails, holiday dessert drinks, soda and juice mixers can pack a lot of sugar. You can still keep your drink fun and festive by mixing your choice of alcohol with sparkling water or a low-calorie mixer ,such as diet soda or diet juice, and add frozen cranberries and a sprig of rosemary for that Christmas cheer. If you decide to skip on the alcohol, you can still enjoy a fun holiday mocktail without the booze. Pour it in a wine glass, and you won’t miss a thing!

Here’s an easy mocktail recipe:

Muddle pomegranate seeds and cranberries together in a glass. Add ice and pour in cranberry or raspberry flavored sparkling water, add one to two ounces of diet cranberry juice, and stir. Pour into wine glass and garnish with a rosemary sprig.

For more mocktail recipes, click here. 

Even though we’re maybe celebrating differently, it’s still a busy season — juggling work, kids, shopping, wrapping, you get the idea. Sometimes it seems like more fast food, pizza, etc., is the easy way to go. Any suggestions for meal preps or changes to get you through the busy times without defaulting to the drive-thru?

Plan ahead. And this doesn’t mean taking your entire Sunday to prep meals for the week. Grab your calendar, and look for little opportunities to pencil in grocery shopping and simple food prep. For example, if a recipe calls for four chicken breasts, why not double it to have extra protein on hand later in the week or cut up extra vegetables for easy grab-and-go snacks or additions to meals.

The holidays also tend to bring out a lot of emotional response, especially this year, and in some people that ties to food. Any advice for the emotional eaters?

Worrying too much about food choices can add on even more stress to the holiday season, and that stress could actually derail your efforts even further. Keep your food-intake in perspective, and give yourself grace. One dessert or an extra helping isn’t going to undo all your efforts, so give yourself a break, and keep sustainability in mind. Practicing mindful eating strategies, along with stress-management strategies, can go a long way during the holiday season.

Are there any other common nutrition pitfalls, reminders or opportunities during the holidays?

Keep your mental health in mind – practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself during the holiday season. When we’re more compassionate toward ourselves, our health goals are much easier and more enjoyable to attain.

If you are on a plan like Profile, how can that integrate into holiday celebrations?

Our coaches love meeting with members over the holiday season. Navigating this time of year brings on many challenges, so it can be helpful to have an accountability partner by your side. The Profile plan can easily fit into any holiday celebration depending on your goals and what behaviors or changes you want to focus on during this time. If it’s completely sticking to your nutrition plan, we have a lot of healthy holiday recipes and mocktails that you can swap in. Or maybe it’s learning how to be more mindful and less stressed – our coaches are here to help with tips and strategies. It’s a great time of year to reset and focus on what’s important in regard to your health journey.

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It’s possible: Eat, drink and be merry — while still keeping nutrition in mind over the holidays

“Don’t allow food to have power over your enjoyment during this holiday season!” Take the power back with this great advice for the week ahead.

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