Holiday meal on table
Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well Ohio: Nov./Dec. 2020

How to enjoy your favorite holiday foods without going overboard and strategies for coping with socially distancing this time of year. 

Season’s Eating
You can enjoy your favorite dishes during the holidays without going overboard. Really. 

The most wonderful time of the year is also the most tempting, and even the diligent healthy eater can be derailed when the dessert tray arrives. How can you enjoy the deliciousness without a heaping side of guilt? Fill up on this advice from Liz Satterthwaite, registered dietitian at ProMedica health system in Toledo. 

Split the Plate. The buffet is brimming with fat-filled favorites. You’re tempted to call it a cheat night. Don’t. “Get the best of both worlds by filling three-quarters of your plate with foods like vegetables and protein and the other quarter with the mac and cheese,” Satterthwaite suggests.

Forget the Fast. If you save up all of your calories for the holiday meal, you won’t blow your calorie goal, right? It sounds good, but you may be setting yourself up to overeat. “Have a normal day of eating or at least eat a snack on your way out the door,” Satterthwaite says. 

Bring Nutrient-Dense Foods. For potlucks, be the guest who shows up with a healthy option. “Typically, there are plenty of proteins and carbs at meals, but there might not be as much fruit and vegetables,” Satterthwaite says. 

Wait and See. Think of your plate as a shopping cart. If you load it up with everything on your wish list and check out right away, you might not feel great about all of the purchases later. “Wait 10 to 20 minutes before making a food decision,” Satterthwaite suggests. “Hunger does waver, so if you wait you could get distracted by a conversation.

Man looking at family holiday photo (photo by iStock)
Celebrating Together, Apart
Here’s how to cope with a season of uncertainty and spend quality time with your family and friends. 

Get-togethers and celebrations look different as we enter a holiday season of social distancing. This time of year can take a mental toll on all of us. The pandemic only adds to the stress and can trigger loneliness. Many of us will be spending time together, apart.

“Most of us have missed milestones because of the pandemic: spring holidays, graduations, birthdays,” says Kristen Carpenter, chief psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “We have found ways to celebrate and come together in different ways, and we’ve gotten better at it.”

Carpenter suggests considering which replacement celebrations worked and which left you wanting.

“When we reflect back on how we celebrate holidays normally, it can feel like a real miss,” she says. “It’s important to remember there are always ways to find connections.”

Carpenter shares some strategies for navigating the holidays this year. 

Pinpoint What Matters: What do you appreciate most about the season? Do you love finding just the right holiday gift and wrapping it or driving to the tree farm as a family? “What makes the holiday valuable?” Carpenter asks. “Why is it nourishing for you?” Answering these questions will help you find ways to experience those memory-makers rather than getting hung up on all the other little things that might not be possible. “If we understand how we benefit from these experiences,” she adds, “we can then start to think more strategically about ways to find good replacements.” 

Plan, But Be Flexible: Now that you’ve identified what matters most, put a plan in place. “Decide how much ‘unknown’ you can tolerate,” Carpenter says. Accept that there will be some level of uncertainty, but gain control by creating a Plan A and Plan B. If you usually travel by car to see the family, make that the primary plan, but be ready to visit with family via Zoom if things change. 

Share Mini Moments: “Find ways to see the people you care about during times leading up to the holidays,” Carpenter says. These experiences give us something to look forward to as opposed to building up to one big event. “You don’t have to converge at one time,” Carpenter says. “Think about how you can insert those many conversations you enjoy over the course of several days.”