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Holiday eating advice that may surprise you


While contemplating what to say this month about holiday eating, I received a monthly newsletter from wellnessnutrition.ca, written by my colleague Doug Cook, a fellow dietitian. It started with that quote, and I knew it was the perfect thought to pass on during this holiday season. 

People always ask me how they can deal with the excessive amount of decadent foods that flow during the holidays, and my answer is always the same: Decadence is not a problem if you have healthy eating habits most of the time.


Sometimes holiday parties are back-to-back for a few weeks in a row, but the same general logic applies. If you eat well most of the time, you can enjoy your festive favourites at a cocktail party or cookie exchange, with no detrimental effects to your overall health.  


And who is to say that your festive favourites can’t also be healthy options? In fact, many traditional holiday foods – from turkey with cranberries to minted peas – are brimming with essential nutrients. In fact, turkey is considered a “superfood” because it is high in protein, low in fat, and filled with vitamins and minerals. Sweet potatoes and broccoli are superfoods too. If you can manage to choose vegetables alongside your turkey, you are off to a great start. 


But realistically, you’ll also find less nutritious options on the table. From the high carb overload of potatoes, stuffing and rice, to the high fat condiments like gravy, not all foods are nutrition all-stars. And this news may surprise you: it is okay if not every food on your plate is healthy. 


Festive meals are supposed to be festive, so go ahead and enjoy the foods that you look forward to all year long. BUT – if these less nutritious “festive” foods make an appearance on your plate 365 days a year, it might be time to rethink your overall eating habits. 


And that’s my message for today. Do your best by making healthy choices most of the time. It doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your favourite foods – just eat less of them. The food you eat really does make a difference in how your body feels, and how healthy you can be. Too many of us ignore the very important connection between food and our body. 


Quite simply, if you subsist on junk food that’s high in fat, sugar, refined flour and salt, your body will react with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity and heart disease. If you ramp up your diet with more vegetables and fruit, switch to whole grains, choose leaner cuts of meat, and cut back on salty condiments, you can enjoy small changes can add up to big health gains. Making healthier food choices is your first line of defence against cancer, heart disease and diabetes, any time of year. 


And since I started with a quote, I’ll end with a quote too: Remember, you are what you eat.