The Secret to a Healthy Holiday: Ditch the Guilt

Post by Olivia Martino, Registered Dietitian and Co-Owner, Nourish Northwest

This holiday season, switch to fat free eggnog.  Replace all of the cream/whole milk in your baking with low fat versions and only use the white part of the eggs.  Be careful of those bite size appetizers.  Fill up on veggies before attending the holiday party.  Step away, I repeat, step away from the buffet table.

These are just a few of the tips I will not be telling my clients this year.  To tell you the truth, I have been dreading writing a holiday blog post because these are the tips that are expected of me, as a dietitian, this time of year.  And year after year I have done it.  Last year, in fact, Paula and I spent weeks revising a cookbook that employees of a company compiled from their family recipes.  They handed us a pile of scribbled, food-spattered notecards and magazine clippings and asked us to make them healthier.  We did it because that’s what they hired us to do, but we cringed as we inserted tips, such as the ones above onto the pages of these heirloom recipes.  It felt terrible to adapt a beloved grandmother’s recipe to something that simply wasn’t going to taste the same, which meant that the whole nostalgic experience would be lost.  And by switching from white to whole wheat flour, would it be that much healthier? Honestly, probably not.  And the tricky thing about trying to make recipes healthier, is that we then give ourselves permission to eat more of that food.  Or we eat more because it isn’t satisfying us in the same way.


My grandma would NOT be happy with me if I messed with her Italian cookie recipes!

I am not trying to dismiss the importance of trying to eat healthier this time of year, but I want to shift the focus away from that.  The important part that is not acknowledged when we are shaking our fingers and dictating what you should and shouldn’t eat, is what happens when you don’t make those choices?  Because we don’t always say “no” to that 6th appetizer or millionth Christmas cookie.  Since these foods have been so demonized, we end up feeling guilty.  We failed at what we were supposed to do and we feel bad about ourselves.  So then what do we do?  We go for cookie #1 million and one.  And the guilt gets worse.   And that’s when the weight tends to come on.

This holiday season, try to go into it with a different outlook.  Rather than thinking, “I’m dreading facing all of these unhealthy foods and I’m going to gain so much weight,” trying rephrasing that to say, “I cannot wait to eat my mom’s bread pudding that only comes around this one time of year! I am going to savor and enjoy a piece of it and that will satisfy my sweet tooth for the day.”  It may seem silly, but so much of how we deal with life stressors is related to our frame of mind.

And because I am a dietitian I do have to remind you to be reasonable, continue your normal diet and exercise routine but do allow yourself some indulgences.  And please enjoy them and have a happy, healthy holiday season!


Pizzelles: our family holiday tradition



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