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Eating Healthy During The Holiday Season

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December 19, 2019

A family gathers for a holiday meal

Eating healthy during the holidays can be a challenge, especially if you have chronic health conditions.

McFarland Clinic Family Medicine physician Michael Bird, MD has advice for healthy eating during the holidays.

Eating During the Holiday Season

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Some people may be concerned about healthy eating options during the holidays. This concern is a legitimate one for anybody, but it can be especially difficult if you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes.

“People know there will be more calorie-dense foods and more food in general,” Dr. Bird said. “It is difficult for them to control the meal offerings when traveling and eating with family in different settings.”

Eating during the holidays may seem temporary, but it can create a new eating pattern which can be difficult to correct once the holiday season is over.

Health and Nutritional Impact of Holiday Meals

Traditional holiday meals tend to be high in calories and lower in nutrient value. Typical foods such as gravy, dressing, buttery potatoes, creamy green beans, pies and other desserts are calorie-dense foods. They can contain high amounts of fat and salt which can be dangerous to those suffering certain health conditions.

“The excess calories and salt can have a significant negative impact on most chronic health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and congestive heart failure,” Dr. Bird said.

Healthy Holiday Eating Options

Try these strategies to enjoy the holiday festivities without risking your health:

  • Offer to bring a couple of healthy dishes to eat and share.

  • Eat your healthy entree and smaller amounts of less nutritious food.

  • If there aren’t nutritious options available, eat smaller volumes.

Recovering from OverIndulging

Even if you do overindulge at one holiday party, you shouldn’t have “food guilt,” Dr. Bird said. Overindulging won’t affect most people’s chronic health conditions as long as they get back to their regular health eating afterward.

“The body is an amazing machine and can recover from a lot of dietary indiscretion, especially when these are infrequent,” Dr. Bird said.

Tips to Avoid Overindulging

  • Eat a healthy meal before the party, then snack lightly.

  • Bring a healthy dish for yourself and others to share.

  • Give yourself a pep talk before going to a party or family gathering.

  • Remind yourself of how uncomfortable it feels to be stuffed and how it might cause a worsening of a medical condition such as diabetes or cardiac issues.

Dr. Bird said just acknowledging that your health could be negatively impacted by overindulging can be a great start to healthy holiday eating.

“We have tremendous power to control our health, and just knowing that fact should provide the motivation for controlled eating in the holiday setting,” he said.

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