NUTRITION CORNER: 6 healthy holiday tips

As we approach a unique holiday season this year, taking care of your health continues to be important. Delicious, holiday foods bring us comfort and an opportunity to reimagine and invent traditions. Here are six reminders for health in the coming weeks.

  1. Focus on family and friends. With the pandemic and the holidays upon us, continue to put family and friends first. Instead of trying to re-create your normal extravagant meals for just a few people, try out some new recipes. Explore different traditions that you can share virtually. Social interaction can comfort us in similar ways to food by increasing our feel-good hormones. However, with social interaction, that emotional reward can last longer and be more satisfying.
  2. Experiment with cooking alternatives. Aim to reduce the amount of saturated fat and refined sugars you use for traditional recipes and incorporate healthy alternatives like natural sugars, fiber and unsaturated fats. For example, use olive oil instead of butter in a cake or casserole recipe. Or substitute natural sugars from fruits like apple or banana for added sugars in your favorite recipe. Try these other healthy-ingredient swaps.
  3. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Start every meal with gratitude about something you hold dear and, as you eat, appreciate the flavors of each bite. Eating slowly prevents overeating by allowing us to listen to our bodies’ hunger and fullness cues.
  4. Be mindful of portions. Take note of which items and how much of each is on your plate, especially in a meal with lots of food options. A good strategy for portion control is to mentally divide your plate:
    • ¼ Select lean proteins such as poultry or fish to make up a quarter of the plate—or about the size of a deck of cards.
    • ¼ Fuel up on complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain pastas, brown rice and vegetables like potatoes, corn, peas and squash. Portion these to fit in another quarter of the plate. Fiber from the complex carbs delays how fast blood glucose levels rise in the blood, which is especially important for those with type 2 diabetes.
    • ½ Savor a variety of non-starchy vegetables such as dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and celery. These should fill up to one half of your plate, are loaded with vitamins and fiber and don’t affect blood sugars as much.

    Oregon Health and Science University offers this heart-healthy plate visual to help you visualize portions!

  5. Drink in moderation. Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day for woman and two drinks per day for men. Focus instead on staying hydrated with these fun alternatives to water or a mocktail.
  6. Stay active. Continue any type of daily movement over the holidays to better your physical and mental health. Try an online yoga, Pilates or weights workout class, or check your local trail guide for winter-friendly hikes. See also the “Creative Winter Exercise” article in this newsletter.

Written by Christy Goff, MS, RDN, CD, and Diego Manjarrez, Bastyr dietetic intern during PacMed nutrition rotation.