With turkey day around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how to maintain your current food plan throughout the holidays. There are several ways you can still have yummy, healthy meals, especially if you’re the one cooking or bringing a dish to contribute. However, you’re likely to get invited to events where you don’t have control over the food. In this article, I highlight strategies on how to best handle these situations over the next couple of months.
First, let’s review some basics! Unless you are on a specific elimination diet for a defined period of time, such as 30-60 days for health reasons as prescribed by your healthcare practitioner, you should have a little leeway to enjoy a couple of holiday meals. If you are a patient of mine already, you know you should be following your food plan 80-90% of the time, which leaves you a couple of meals per week to be less than perfect. A good rule of thumb is to remember that the more symptoms you have, the less you should stray from your food plan. Notice that I’m suggesting you strive for closer to 100% and not actually 100%…there is such a thing as excess stress caused by trying to be too perfect with your diet and health. It’s actually a condition called orthorexia where stressing too much over eating (or exercising) can actually do more harm to your health than good. Life is about balance and choice, focus on eating real food and do the best you can while still enjoying yourself!
The goal is to make good nutritional choices when you have control over them, which requires planning and preparation. If time is an issue, you can replace a meal with a healthy protein shake as a time saver (see my blog for some ideas on how to make some yummy, nutrient dense recipes). However, we all have situations where we don’t have total control over the menu, like when we are out to eat or at a social function. This may mean you have to ask some questions about food contents, especially if you know specific ingredients trigger an immune response for you. Remembering your supplements, especially your digestive enzymes and probiotics (if you have been prescribed them as part of your plan), will help decrease the impact of a less than perfect meal by helping your digestive system break down food more easily.
Making sure you are getting enough fresh, clean, filtered water will also help you stay on track and make better food choices. Dehydration is not only less than ideal for your overall health, it can lead to increased appetite and food cravings, when in fact what your body needs is water. A good goal is half your body weight in ounces of water per day, more if you are active or in warmer weather conditions.
Don’t forget, nutrition is only one of several vital components to your overall health plan! Nutrition, enough good quality sleep, relaxation, stress management, and exercise are all equally important in achieving and maintaining optimal health. This is especially true during more stressful times, such as the holidays, where it is even more important to make sure all components are in check and have priority in your life.
In summary, all you can do is make the best food choices possible given the options. And remember, if you happen to eat off plan, don’t beat yourself up over it, just get right back on track with your next meal!