The winter holidays are the season for sweets and indulgence. This may seem like an obstacle to healthy living, but there are strategies to keep your physical well-being prioritized while still enjoying the holiday season. In this year’s SFG Healthy Holidays edition, we will debunk common misconceptions that may impede your holiday merriment while providing strategies to maximize both your Physical Well-being and Psychological Space this holiday season.
Misconception #1: If it’s colorful, it must be healthy.
Many nutrition experts recommend “eating the rainbow” as a way to obtain the wide variety of healthful nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. While this may be true of whole fruits and vegetables, holiday dishes often call for some extra, less healthy ingredients.
The Science: Color in fruits in vegetables is often indicative of phytonutrients that are beneficial for health, such as carotenoids in sweet potatoes and anthocyanins in cranberries. However, colorful holiday dishes often pack in some unwanted ingredients, such as added sugar and saturated fat.
- Be strategic with portions. Double down on whole fruits and vegetables, such as the grapes on the cheese plate, fresh salad or roasted green beans, and minimize portions of the less healthy options, such as gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
- Read the labels. If you are shopping, look for the foods with the least amount of added sugars, saturated fat and sodium on the nutrition facts label. Watch out for sneaky sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, on the ingredients list (opt for cane sugar over high fructose corn syrup).
- Make from scratch. If you’re feeling adventurous, choose a few dishes to make from scratch. Here are some of our favorites:
- Cranberry sauce (has more fruit and less sugar than store bought sauce)
- Mushroom gravy (has more beneficial nutrients and less sodium than store bought gravy)
- Pumpkin Pie (less sugar than store bought and free of additives)
Misconception #2: Turkey makes me sleepy.
Turkey’s fictitious sleep-inducing qualities originate due to its tryptophan content. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin, which is implicated in sleep. However, there are many other foods, not just turkey, that contain tryptophan and aren’t known to make us sleepy.
The Science: Despite serotonin’s involvement in sleep cycles, the tryptophan in food is unlikely to be the cause of post-Thanksgiving meal sleepiness. Instead, overflowing plates, which divert blood to the digestive tract, or high intakes of carbohydrates and sweets, which result in a large insulin response and subsequent low blood sugar, are more likely to explain that desired post-meal snooze.
- Manage hunger. Manage your hunger throughout the day so as not to go into Thanksgiving starving.
- Savor smaller portions. Portion sizes apply here too. Take smaller portions of refined carbohydrates and sweets, such as sweetened cranberry sauce, potatoes and white bread. Instead, slow down and savor each bite, enjoying the company around the table.
Misconception #3: Working out can offset holiday overindulgence.
The Science: There is more to maintaining a healthy weight than the popular calories in, calories out theory. The quality of our food impacts our physiology, thereby having downstream effects on weight and health. In other words, you can’t out exercise a poor diet. However, this doesn’t mean that moving isn’t beneficial during the holidays.
- Adopt a new mindset. Rather than trying to exercise to offset holiday calories, incorporate movement for overall health and mental well-being. Find fun ways to be active with family and friends, such as throwing a football or walking with loved ones.
- Set goals and adopt new habits in the New Year. Rather than worrying about holiday overindulgence, focus that energy on the habits you’ll build in the New Year. Reflect on the past year and ask yourself what you could do to improve your health and well-being next year. Whether you decide to cook more meals at home, make more time for exercise, or find ways to manage stress, be kind to yourself this season and enjoy your holiday celebrations.
Check out our other Healthy Holidays articles, featuring:
- Finding seasonal produce in your area
- Incorporating Physical Activity into your busy holiday schedule
- Strategies to upgrade your Thanksgiving menu at the store, in the kitchen and at the table, with plenty of recipes to choose from
- Baking alternatives for a healthier dessert
- Healthy Holidays Recipe Collection for a curated list of all of our healthy holiday recipes
Nicole Schultz Ninteau is the Physical Capital Resources Manager with Schultz Financial Group Inc.
Schultz Financial Group Inc. (SFG) is a wealth management firm located in Reno, NV. Our approach to wealth management is different from many other wealth managers, financial advisors, and financial planners. Our team of fee-only fiduciaries strives to help our clients build their wealth across four capitals: Financial Matters, Physical Well-being, Psychological Space, and Intellectual Engagement. We provide family office and wealth management services to clients located in Nevada, California, and other states. If you’d like more information, please check out our website or reach out to us via our contact page.