We can probably all agree that the winter holiday season is all about giving. It’s tradition to give to others, whether a gift or a meal or kind, positive words. This year consider giving yourself the gift of nourishment. To nourish is to meet your needs for health and growth, though it also means to strengthen, build, and cherish. Nourishment is the sustenance for well-being. What and how you eat, drink, move, exercise, and think all contribute to the greater picture; your overall health. There are many ways to practice self-care; we each define it uniquely. But the high holiday energy is here and it’s not uncommon to lose track of our individual health goals. Below are some tips to help remind you of ways to have a nourishing holiday season
- Plan Your Meals And Snacks – With the rush of holiday events and gatherings it’s easy to lose awareness of how and what we’re eating. Carve sometime out of your busy schedule to plan your meals and snacks for the week; mark it on the calendar, invite your family to participate. If you know what you’re going to have it takes the pressure off of planning dinner when you get home from work. It also takes some of the stress out of a trip to the grocery store. It’s important to remember the recommendation to plan ¼ plate protein (chicken, turkey, beef, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds), ¼ plate whole grain (brown or wild rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta), and ½ plate non-starchy vegetables (beets, squash, cauliflower, rutabaga, turnip, parsnip, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, etc.).
- Stay Connected With Your Support Network – Do you have someone close that you can talk with and share your health goals? It can be very helpful to have a point person to keep you on track and accountable. Sometimes it’s a partner, friend, or colleague; sometimes it’s a health coach, dietitian, or other health practitioner. Regular contact with this person is a way for you to maintain focus on your goals as well as determine if a goal has been met and therefore needs to be modified. It can be tricky to manage healthy, dietary and lifestyle choices on your own, so think about who you have to connect with and reach out.
- Keep A Healthy Snack On Hand – How many times have you been in the middle of shopping or at the skating rink or sledding hill or on a car ride and thought to yourself, I should’ve packed a snack. Well, don’t let history repeat itself this year. Pack a Kind Bar or RxBar, a piece of fruit, small serving of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit (1/4 cup), cheese stick, Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, or half a sandwich with extra veggies. Snacking on this will help curb your hunger so you can wait for a proper, well-balanced meal rather than caving into your cravings and eating something that you might have not otherwise chosen.
- Respect Your Limit – Stop When You’re Full – Yes, it’s the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean you need to over indulge. You’re likely already eating foods that you may not normally eat, so why over do it? Between now and your big holiday meal practice mindful eating by tuning into your hunger and fullness cues; you may want to practice thinking or even writing down what it feels like to be starving, hungry, neutral, satisfied, and stuffed. This tool can help you consistently identify when you’re satisfied – it’s recommended to stop eating then. This is a practice that takes time to master, starting now will only help you in the future. The next idea will also add to your mindful eating practice.
- Take Your Time With Your Meal – It’s a well-known fact that there are some of the tastiest and most nostalgic foods around the holidays. Consider this advice: take your time and ENJOY your favorite foods. Take time to admire how it looks, smells, and tastes. Wait to load up your fork or spoon with the next bite until you’ve completely finished your first bite. Stay aware of your breath; breathe in between bites. Be aware of your portion. Often when we slow down and really experience our foods the portion that it takes to be satisfied becomes smaller than when we rush.
- Bring A Healthy Dish – Surprise your family and friends with a new, healthy recipe. Perhaps roasted broccoli, homemade humus or black bean dip, wild rice pilaf, roasted chicken, apple and pear skewers, or kale and pomegranate salad; just to name a few. In an era where food and cooking is widespread in the media you’re bound to get recipe requests. AND you’ve ensured there will be at least one healthy food at the table.
- Stay Physically Active – Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you can push your normal routine out of your mind. Your body is still asking for exercise. And with the added stress that often comes with this time of year it’s even more important to keep your body moving. Most people say they feel better once they’ve gone for a walk or a run, attended a class at a gym, or participated in a yoga class. So who doesn’t want to feel better? Perhaps set a reminder in your phone or hand write a love note to yourself with a gentle reminder to get outside and walk around the block a few times. Your health thanks you.
Now is a good a time as ever to think of your health goals. Think about these tips and what is going to help keep you nourished this holiday season. It’s helpful and recommended to write down your health goals, and if you’re comfortable share it with someone you trust and who can provide support. Above all else stay mindful and enjoy yourself. Happy Holidays!
Emily Clairmont is a clinical dietitian for the Community Health Team at the University of Vermont Medical Center.