Holiday eating: Feast or famine? Try moderation and celebration

A child makes a toast with a class of water with their family around a laden holiday table

On average, Americans gain 1 to 2 pounds over the holidays. In the grand scheme of things to worry about, that isn’t too bad. However, putting your health first is important, especially if you have a chronic disease or any health condition.

Amy Ansaldo, RD, a registered dietitian at Cheshire Medical Center, provides nutritional care for inpatients and gives classes for those in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. She shares strategies for healthy eating this holiday season that everyone can learn:

Eat mindfully

This means knowing what you’re eating when you eat it. Anticipate and plan for your favorite traditions. For example, for patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), I recommend a 2-1-2 approach for favorite gatherings that are all about eating. Eat smart with low-sodium meals for 2 days, enjoy your event on that one day, and get right back to smart, low-salt intake for 2 days. This helps your body mobilize the fluid that hangs around after higher-salt meals.

Be a picky eater

Choose your favorite foods and enjoy a sensible serving of them and avoid foods that you don’t find as enjoyable. Pick what you want to eat while not depriving yourself. Tip: Portion control is easier if you choose a smaller plate.

Don’t skip meals

The thought of “saving calories for later” will definitely lead to overeating and slow down your metabolism, helping your body store excess calories. Your metabolism is like a campfire—the flame goes out when you stop adding fuel (food) to the fire.

Stay hydrated

Being dehydrated can affect your energy level, your mood, and your digestion. It can also affect your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. If you are taking blood pressure medications or a daily diuretic, try to maintain a similar fluid intake so you can feel your best.

Don’t skimp on fiber

Not skimping on fiber goes with hydration! Too little fluids + too little fiber can = constipation. Staying regular is so important for GI health. So, make sure to stay hydrated so you can be your most festive self. 

Take control

Offer to cook or bring a healthy and hearty dish that you like. Limit excess sodium, sugar, and saturated fats by incorporating fresh veggies, yogurt, hummus, light spreads, and fresh herbs. Make mashed potatoes with milk instead of cream, and bring beverages you prefer (alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic). 

Last but not least, CELEBRATE! 

Relax, let some of your stressors fade away, and celebrate the year with your friends and family. Always, always be kind to yourself!