By Mia Rigden
Board-certified nutritionist, classically trained chef
The holiday season is for celebrations, time with loved ones, and reflecting on the year, but they often come with added stress…and a lot of cookies. When you think about it, the holidays are just a handful of events, and perhaps a little travel. There’s no reason we have to write off an entire six weeks of our well-being just because we had a few indulgent meals. Healthy holidays are possible with a few simple daily practices.
Good nutrition is about consistency, not perfection. Eating too much pie on Thanksgiving is unlikely to make any real difference in your life (aside from perhaps a temporary bellyache), but overeating sweets daily for weeks on end can affect your blood sugar, your mood and mental health, energy levels, nutrient status, sleep, weight, immune health, and more. Instead of beginning a new year feeling drained, exhausted, depleted, and like you need to “start over,” let’s move into 2024 from a place of strength. Here are a few tips to help you feel your best over the holiday season:
- Make your breakfast count. For most of us, breakfast happens on our own terms, so it’s a great opportunity to get some nutrients in and set yourself up for success during the day. Aim to consume a decent serving of protein, some healthy fats, and fiber. A serving of vegetables is extra credit! Here are a few ideas to get started.
- High protein overnight oats: I love this recipe because it can be made in advance or hot, if you prefer, and has lots of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
- Egg dishes: Three eggs is just over 20 grams of protein. You can make a scramble, an omelet, a frittata, or even some hard boiled eggs.
- Protein smoothie: My basic formula for a protein smoothie includes a serving of protein powder, ¼–½ cup of fruit, a handful of greens (like spinach), chia or flax seeds, a scoop of nut butter or ¼ of an avocado for healthy fats, and the liquid of your choice (milk, water, or a combination of the two).
- Apple pancakes: Don’t forget this recipe for lazy Sunday mornings or if you’re cooking for family. It feels simultaneously celebratory, healthy, and, of course, delicious.
- Prioritize protein. Adequate protein will give you energy and keep you satiated. It’s generally not the protein portion of a meal that we overeat, so if you prioritize having a serving of protein with each meal, you have more stable blood sugar and are less likely to overdo it.
- Create an alcohol bank for the week. The holidays often come with increased alcohol consumption, which we know can affect sleep, mood, cravings, and more. If you choose to imbibe over the holidays, set a limit. Maybe it’s five drinks per week. This way, you will be more mindful of the number of days per week you choose to drink and the number of drinks you have in a day.
- Keep a food and lifestyle journal. The goal behind journaling isn’t to scrutinize your meals or shame yourself; it’s a mindfulness practice. If you notice you’re grabbing sweets from the pantry at work too often or have fallen out of routines that make you feel good the rest of the year, journaling is a good way to keep yourself on track. Try to also record your sleep, energy levels, mood, and digestion, so you can pinpoint any other changes that might not be supporting your body.
- Commit to moving your body. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a hike with friends, a social sport like tennis, an at-home workout, or a group class, make a point to get your body moving at least a few days a week. This will help with your energy levels and your mood while keeping you motivated to continue the habits and routines that make you feel your best.
- Keep taking your supplements. If you have a supplement routine that works for you, keep it up. Busier times of the year can increase your need for certain vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants like glutathione support your immune system and cellular health, magnesium is great for supporting sleep and can be depleted by stress, and B vitamins can help your body turn food into energy.
- Have fun and don’t stress. Remember, this is supposed to be a joyful time.
Maintaining your nutrition and wellbeing practices will help you to enjoy your indulgences and time with loved ones more. Make the most of this special time of year, and start 2024 on the right note!
Mia Rigden is a Los Angeles-based board certified nutritionist, trained chef, and the author of The Well Journal (2020) and Foodwise (2023), a comprehensive, encouraging guide to healthy eating with 100 original, nutritionally-balanced and flavor-enriching recipes. Learn more about working with Mia on her website, check out an online course, and follow on Instagram @mia_rigden for science-backed, practical nutrition advice.