By: Sonja Smiljanic, BA, NNCP
I’ve been surprised over the years by many opinion articles on ‘how to eat’ over the holidays. These pieces seem to use guilt as an underlying “motivation” factor and to be honest, who wants that? The holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy the company of your loved ones and celebrate with food, drink, and socializing! To me, the holidays are more about working to let go of the associated guilt we often feel when we are out of routine.
As a Holistic Nutritionist my scope stretches beyond food. I enjoy looking at how an individual’s wellness can be supported with food, but also with body movement, social connection, emotions, stress management, spirituality, sleep, and so much more. This year, I am offering this guide as an alternative approach to holiday eating. I hope it helps you to cultivate a positive sense of joy when it comes to nutrition and wellness this holiday season!
- The holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy seasonal food. Whether that’s some delicious turkey with gravy, roasted potatoes, flavourful latkes, or your favourite holiday cookies! Most of us don’t usually have time to pour into meal prep the way we do during the holiday season; this makes it an excellent time to enjoy these special foods.
- Aim to drink more water than you think is necessary. There are entire books about the importance of water. My suggestion is to aim for more water than you think is necessary. There are some helpful apps out there that provide simple ways to track how many glasses of water you have per day (I use “Water Tracker”). Water can aid general digestion, decrease bloating and gas, support skin health, and reduce headaches induced by alcohol, stress or social over-stimulation – making it a prefect wellness support during the holidays when we are eating more, sleeping less and socializing frequently.
- Make it a priority to take your vitamins. It is easy to forget your vitamins when busy or travelling. I like to use a traditional pill box to organize my vitamins when I travel during the holidays. I always make probiotics and Vitamin D top priorities as they support immunity and help me to feel good, which is so important at this time of year. The vitamins recommended by your Nutritionist, Naturopath, or family doctor were given for a reason and can provide useful support over the holidays.
- Try making some meals ahead of time (this is when your slow cooker really comes in handy!) My husband is a superstar slow cooker! I love it when at the end of a long day we can come home to some warm chili or soup. Beyond slow cooking it’s also nice to have a couple of things frozen and ready to go: stews, pastas, or even sauces that can easily be added to things. The time you can save with a few ready-made meals can feel extra special during the holidays. And if it’s accessible, getting a take-away meal from your favourite local restaurant can give you extra time to rest!
- Aim to have a variety of snacks on hand. You know what I love? My mom’s Christmas cookies. While in theory I think I could eat them all day I know from experience that after about 3 or 4 cookies my stomach starts aching. Then two days later I’m dealing with a breakout on my face. So, yes, I make sure to have ready access to mom’s cookies during the holidays but I like to keep our kitchen stocked with other favourites like crackers, kale chips, nuts and seeds, hummus, fresh pre-cut veggies, dates, and almond butter. I also like to make sure I have a good quality protein powder around for smoothies when I’m feeling like I need an extra hit of veg (I love the combination of frozen banana, raw spinach, green apple, and cashew milk)! Try taking 2 minutes now to create a list of your top 10 favourite snacks. On your next trip for groceries make sure to stock up on at least 5 of your favourites.
- Aim for balance with sugar and alcohol. I recommend finding balance between sugary treats and alcohol. Many types of alcohol contain sugar and often soda is used to make mixed drinks. If you’re also consuming high amounts of sugar-based foods, it can send your body into stressful overdrive. If you’re out at a holiday party enjoying wine or other drinks, consider having a few less sweets or vice versa. If you really want to enjoy both I’d recommend drinking a few glasses of water in the same time span to help your body digest everything.
- Create time and space for daily silence. Call it meditation, prayer, silent time… I recommend carving out time and a special place where you can spend at least 2-3 minutes a day just being quiet. The holidays can be overwhelming with social commitments and this can drive us into an overwhelmed state. The benefits of meditation include reducing anxiety, increasing mental focus, and improving sleep. Who doesn’t want an extra dose of those things during the holidays?! I meditate a few minutes every morning with some frankincense essential oil and find that it really grounds me. While my meditation practice has become a habit, I still keep a reminder on my phone just in case the morning gets away from me…use whatever works to help keep yourself committed to that daily dose of stillness.
- Protect your sleep. Guard you sleep like your well-being depended on it (because it truly does). The Harvard Gazette published a story in 2018 explaining that a lack of sleep could induce long-term health issues and cause longer recovery times from illnesses. A lack of sleep can lead to a less efficient immune system making you more vulnerable to illness. I love the quote: “If you don’t pick a day to relax, your body will pick it for you.” It such a beautiful reminder to prioritize rest.
- Aim to move your body regularly. Movement can be accomplished with 10 minutes of at-home yoga, a 60 minute session at your local Crossfit gym, a cycle class, or a brisk walk to a nearby park. Like silent time, body movement can give you the space needed to breathe and be alone. Plus the many benefits of exercise are well known: increased energy, a stronger immune system, and better sleep – to name a few. I intentionally booked myself into a yoga class two days before Christmas this year as a way to centre myself before a few days of family commitments. You will thank yourself later for planning ahead and scheduling time for movement in your busy holiday schedule.
- Check in with yourself – how are you feeling today? What are 2-3 words you would use to describe how you feel? Quite literally say to yourself “Hey, how are you today? What do you need today to feel good?” You might be surprised at how clearly you answer yourself. If you live with a partner or other family, consider doing a daily check-in where you ask each other these questions. This provides some wonderful insight as to the overall energy level of your family.
Most importantly, use the tools you always use! I personally use meditation, essential oils, and walking as tools for daily wellness. I think sometimes the holidays are simply about reminding yourself of the things that you already know work for you!
I hope this list of tips is helpful to you! Please feel free to reach out to me via the clinic if you have any questions. You can also connect with me on Instagram at @tobodywithlove