Just as we welcome the Fall, we also welcome the Holiday season. That means many celebrations in the upcoming months, in more traditional terms, that means Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. In a diverse culture like ours that just means that we are going to be spending a great amount of time celebrating with friends, co-workers and family, and that involves food items and amounts of these food items that we may not consume on a regular basis, nonetheless usually delicious. You may be asking yourself whether you will and whether you should gain weight during the holidays. Maintaining a clean nutrition schedule and attitude during the Holidays can be challenging. And although I do not advise spending the holidays trying not to gain weight (the Holiday Food Grinch is not welcome at celebrations!), I have a few suggestions to help you enjoy the Holidays!

Deprivation always backfires. Obsessing over what you can and can’t eat will only lead to a feeling of void or that you are missing out. What you are depriving yourself from can easily and often become your focal point. These will likely lead to overeating and consequently to guilt. It is a vicious cycle.  Instead focus on enjoying the people, and catching up, but stay conscious.

Holiday foods are part of traditions! I was born in Puerto Rico, and the Holiday season for me, must have at least one gathering at my aunt Gisselle and uncle Joe’s home. That means great traditional Puerto Rican food, surrounded by other food items that represent whoever has become part of the family. Food is not only calories, food is a way of connecting and sharing. An emotionally healthy, physically healthy and balanced diet can include the holiday feasts, as long as you practice consciousness, variety, balance and moderation.

Consciousness - If you gain weight, do it the healthy way, with the right mindset and for the right reasons. Be conscious of what could push your limits physically (Diabetes, lactose intolerance, Celiac Disease), and emotionally (guilt), and that should include not only the types of foods, but the quantities of food as well.

Variety - Enjoy grandma’s famous holiday cookies, your aunt's buttered rum, or everyone’s favorite family morning bread, but, make sure that you not only eat that. Try to consume and share a variety of items that provide a variety of enjoyment, celebration and nutritional value.

Balance - Holiday foods are not only sweets, there are plenty of healthy or healthier options to maintain a balanced diet. Complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, legumes and whole grains are common. Good sources of protein like turkey, lamb and lean pork cuts are plentiful during the holidays as well.  

Moderation - There are no bad foods, just bad choices.  The easiest way I know to apply moderation is portion control. If you want to enjoy a variety of items, make the servings smaller than you normally would. Treat your entrees like an appetizer, you may even use an appetizer plate instead of a regular one. This could include; turkey, ham, potatoes, squash, legumes, grains and greens. For items that are usually entrees or desserts is best to treat them like an amouse bouche, which is the French term for mouth amuser and they refer to a food item that is of a single or small bite size item. This could include; breads, crackers with spreads, ice cream cookies, pies and such.

Think about these pointers, and try to implement them. You will avoid the guilt, avoid emotional and physical setbacks, and keep those hard-earned gains, or losses! But most important, by having a simple plan to follow, you can focus and enjoy the real reason why the Holidays are so special, your friends and your family!  

Happy Holidays! Cheers!

Luis Omar