It’s officially the season to eat, drink and be merry, but for a lot of people who struggle with their relationship with food and their body, it is more likely to bring anxiety than joy.
Magazine headlines and #fitspo Instagram posts have been pushing the holiday weight gain fear tactics for weeks, scaring us into juice cleanses with the notorious “5 lb holiday weight gain” stat (PS: most people ACTUALLY only gain less than a pound). What generally follows is what we often call “the last supper mentality”. You know, you cut out gluten, sugar, and dairy in the days leading up to a festive meal, only to eat well past satiety at dinner, and then polish off the leftover pie before the clock strikes midnight when POOF, you know you’ll have to start dieting again. Your body isn’t Cinderella, but if this restrict- binge- repeat cycle sounds familiar, know that you’re not alone. I too used to have an all or nothing approach to eating. I had resolved myself to eating so “clean” and “pure” that of course I couldn’t stop myself once I got a taste of all the forbidden foods.
But there’s a better way to prepare yourself for the holiday feasting season that won’t set you up for a punishing January to come. Here are my top tips from an ex-dieter dietitian to help you enjoy all your favourite holiday foods without the side of guilt.
1. Treat yo’ self (every day).
Yep, I’m telling you to have those “unhealthy” foods you crave regularly. Whether that is a chocolate truffle at 10 AM, mashed potatoes with cream and real butter on a Tuesday night, or a slice of pie with whipped cream with lunch, don’t make yourself wait for a special occasion to enjoy the foods you love. Work them in every single day. By the time the holiday feast rolls along, those foods will have lost their novelty, and you won’t feel the need to overdo it on them in a last supper feeding marathon.
2. Resolve to make holiday foods all year long.
Why can’t you make prime rib in July and eggnog in February? You don’t need to pack ALL of your favourites into one single meal. You’ll also enjoy each of the classics a lot more if you give them their own chance to shine, and it’s hard to do that when you’re just on autopilot gorge-mode at a massive meal.
3. Vow to not diet in January.
If the thought of another weight loss diet is looming over your head, you’re going to have a really hard time not eating everything in the house from Thanksgiving through December 31st. Even prospective mental scarcity can trigger your body to go into starvation mode and the result is always overeating.
4. Tune into your body’s cues.
For people who have been dieting for years, this will take some practice. But start now so that you can better honour your hunger and fullness at the holiday feast. Ask yourself before, during and after a meal about your level of hunger, fullness, satisfaction and thoughts. You may find that if you really listen, you don’t even really like your aunt’s marshmallow topped sweet potatoes that much, or that you are satisfied after a single slice of pie.
For an emotionally satisfying, yet physically satiating holiday dish, this Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Figs from my award-winning cookbook, the Mindful Glow Cookbook never disappoints.
Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Figs
- 2 cups of trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts
- 1 cup seedless red grapes
- 4 figs, halved
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 1 ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat.
- Toss the Brussels sprouts, grapes, figs and thyme with the olive oil and lay on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
- Roast until evenly caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes, tossing and turning the brussels sprouts at least once. The sprouts should look well browned, and the grapes and figs should be slightly shriveled and bursting with juice. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the aged balsamic vinegar.
- Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with the toasted pecans. Serve warm.
Abbey’s Tip: These sprouts make a beautiful holiday side dish that can easily be doubled and made ahead. Simply roast until caramelized, allow to cool and refrigerate for up to two days. When ready to eat, pop them back into a 350 F oven for 10 minutes until warm, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with the nuts right before serving.Abbey Sharp is a Media Registered Dietitian (RD), YouTuber, blogger, award winning author, and mom. Abbey debunks nutrition myths and denounces diet culture on her Youtube channel, her acclaimed food blog, Abbey’s Kitchen and in her Gold Medal winning cookbook, the Mindful Glow Cookbook which is available on Amazon, Indigo and local bookstores. She also runs a media training business for nutrition and health professionals called Sharper Edge Media Training. With lots of science and a little sass, Abbey makes nourishing your body without dieting easy, delicious and fun. Follow her everywhere @Abbeyskitchen or abbeyskitchen.com.