By Dr. Shawna Darou
My belief is that a healthy lifestyle can withstand moderate amounts of almost anything, as long as the majority of your meals and snacks are chosen well. You will also find that as you continue to live a healthy lifestyle, your idea of what a treat is, and what comfort foods are will start to shift – organic pear crisp will be just as appealing as cheesecake, and roasted vegetables will replace some of the less healthy carb-heavy sides. Living healthy does not mean a strict, regimented, no-fun approach to food! If it has become this to you, it’s time for a mental shift to embrace the good in the diet that works best for you, and shake up the menu to bring back the enjoyment.
The first big question is, what is moderation? I see moderation as a process of prioritizing what you would really love to indulge in, and choosing one or two things in a week, rather than eating many meals indiscriminately. If you have a week with many social events and gatherings, hold back on the alcohol, breads and desserts, but allow yourself a taste. If there is something on the menu that is irresistible to you, then definitely indulge and enjoy every bite. When you are faced with lots of tempting food choices, ask your self ‘is it worth it?’ How will you feel afterwards? Is this really your favourite thing? When foods no longer become ‘bad’ or banned, it takes the pull out of them, and you are much less likely to binge or overdo it.
Get back on track with the next meal
Just because you had an indulgent meal out, it does not mean that your nutrition plan for the next two weeks has completely derailed. This is probably where people struggle the most, and it comes from an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. If you have had a heavy or indulgent meal out, just get back on track with breakfast the next morning. Have your normal morning smoothie, followed by a large, health salad for lunch. Don’t start your next morning with a chocolate croissant just because you overate the night before!
Look for healthier versions of your favourites
If you are going to a social event or pot-luck, bring a healthier version of an appetizer or dessert, or prepare a veggie-loaded side dish to share. Here are a few examples:
- Appetizers: cheese plate with goat or sheep cheese (if you tolerate it); home-made hummus, baba ganoush or guacamole with veggies or Mary’s crackers; olives; tamari almonds or curried nuts; home-made sushi (you can make it with short-grain brown rice and veggies);
- Veggie sides: huge salad – dress it up with papaya or pomegranate; roasted or grilled vegetables with herbs; quinoa salad with veggies, herbs and vinaigrette; stuffed peppers / cabbage rolls / stuffed mushroom caps or zucchinis; kale chips
- Dessert make-overs: fruit crisp made with apple, pear or combined with berries; or check out Meghan Telpner’s top 20 list of holiday treats.
Don’t forget to stay active over the holiday season with regular trips to the gym, yoga studio or at the very least a daily 30 minute walk. When you exercise regularly, you are much less likely to over-eat over the holiday season! Prioritize regular activity, even when your routine changes. For fun, mix it up with more seasonal activity such as skating, skiing or snow-shoeing if possible.
Make sure you enjoy some downtime, and watch your stress
Don’t forget to take some downtime over the next weeks, even if you are busy with entertaining and family commitments. Prioritize self-care, and make sure that there is some downtime for you too, so you don’t come through holiday season even more fatigued. Remember to pay attention to what’s most important: spending quality time with friends and family, enjoying a break from work for a few days, and gratitude for the abundance that we have.