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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

URI nutrition expert Maya Vadiveloo serves up holiday nutrition tips

Sensible advice

Tracey Manni

The holidays are fast approaching, and it can be all too easy to get swept away in the celebrations. The many opportunities to overindulge, stretched out over a period of weeks, can make it very challenging to maintain healthy eating habits. Following these tips from University of Rhode Island nutrition expert Maya Vadiveloo could help you stay on track, while still enjoying the season:

Be mindful of your choices.

Faced with so many food options at holiday meals, decide which dishes matter most to you. Identify a couple of favorites, tell yourself it’s okay to indulge in those, and balance them out with healthier side dishes that can help you practice moderation while still leaving you feeling satisfied. Mindful choices and balance is the key. 

Don’t go hungry in advance of a special meal.

Skipping breakfast and lunch in order to indulge in a dinner feast is not wise. Going into something really hungry can make it harder to self-regulate and could lead to significant overeating. Instead, eat lower calorie, nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean meats, earlier in the day and focus on healthier appetizers, broth-based soups and vegetable side dishes as part of your holiday meal.

Don’t try going cold turkey.

The “avoid at all costs” approach to holiday eating is not feasible for most people and is difficult to sustain. Instead, make balanced choices and remember the 80/20 rule: make health choices 80% of the time, and give yourself permission to indulge in other foods and treats in moderation the rest of the time. This will allow your body to be properly fueled from a nutritional standpoint, while allowing you to enjoy seasonal and cultural traditions.

Establish non-food based traditions and activities as part of your celebration.

Weather permitting, a walk outdoors between dinner and dessert would not only be an enjoyable way to spend time with friends and family, but it would also help with digestion and give you some time to reset your goals before making your dessert choices.

If you overdo it, don’t beat yourself up.

Even the best intentions can go off track. Instead of focusing on where you went wrong, simply start the next day with fresh intentions and a healthy, balanced breakfast. Try not to let an overindulgence become an ongoing cycle.

Maya Vadiveloo, Ph.D., RD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Rhode Island. She is a registered dietitian and nutritional epidemiologist whose research focuses on using behavioral theory to favorably influence food choices, dietary quality, weight control, and eventually cardiovascular health. She serves on the national Nutrition Committee for the American Heart Association’s Lifestyle and Epidemiology Council and frequently serves as an expert in national nutrition-related news stories.