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The holidays are coming! It’s almost December and I bet most people are struggling between making a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier in some capacity and tallying up the calories of all the food they will eat over Christmas. I myself have made quite the few New Year’s resolutions…lose 5 pounds, go to the gym 3 days a week, stop eating takeout…they usually have something to do with eating!
Do you already have your resolution in mind? Have you been diagnosed with a health condition? Are you getting married? Maybe you just want to get healthier?! It all counts, no matter what your reason is you need to stay focused and on track. So why not make your resolution early! Why early? Well, what is Christmas if it doesn’t involve parties and potlucks and whiskers on kittens (the Christmas spirit has me singing a lot of Christmas carols…I apologize). So how do we avoid over-eating or gaining that holiday weight? It’s simple. Indulge!
A lot of people will eat their way through the holidays and worry about the excess weight after the fact but for some people this isn’t an option. Maybe you’re diabetic or have a heart condition. You need to learn to navigate the buffet table with finesse! So I weighed in with the experts and asked some fellow Dietitians what their tips and tricks for the holidays might be. Let’s see what they all said.
- “Alternate water with alcohol and sip slowly! Occupies the time of drinking with family and friends without the repercussions” Alcohol has a lot of extra calories…despite if you decide to drink it with water. Even pure vodka has calories and alcohol calories are not burned efficiently like food calories.
- “If it’s a potluck/supper thing, bring a salad or a veggie tray and aim for a plate with half vegetables. Wait 20 min after finishing before going back for seconds” Everyone brings treats, so don’t worry, you will still be able to indulge but you are providing at least 1 healthy option for everyone. Fill half your plate with some veggies and fruit and the other half with delicious treats. Wait to get seconds so your body and mind have a chance to communicate that you have just thoroughly indulged…and bonus you don’t get the overstuffed feeling that comes with eating too much too quickly!
- “Scout out the buffet/dessert table and go for a moderate portion of your absolute favourite indulgences instead of trying everything” Before you pick up your plate, check out the table and see which treats you like best. Everyone makes a nacho dip so maybe wait to sample dip at the party where you know your great aunt is making her famous dip and try a different treat instead!
- “I try to only eat my #1 fave foods that I can only get at holidays and skip yummy foods I can get any time of year. Ex: I’d pick a homemade “grandma bun” and skip mashed potatoes, pick a jam jam cookie and skip a cinnamon bun. I also learned to firmly say “no thank you” when everyone is just trying to feed you more, but you’re already full (Grandma!!). At first I felt so rude saying no to Grandma, and I felt like I had to explain why I didn’t want any more, but I found a firm “no thanks, I’ve had enough” usually works best and doesn’t cause her to look worried for too long”
- “I eat ALL of my favourite holiday foods and I try all of the new ones too (including beer). It’s awesome and I can’t wait! My clothes always seem to shrink a bit over the holidays and I’m OK with that! I don’t skip meals to save up for extra calories at parties because that makes me too hungry/cranky. I make sure my kids see me eating all of these foods at meal and snack times and hopefully they’re open to trying new things too” Sampling all the treats is also a healthy eating style. Feeling stressed about it isn’t. Don’t be afraid to let yourself go. Stress can cause physiological body processes that actually aid in excess fat storage! And don’t forget about the kids. They watch everything. Let them know it’s ok to have a treat. Start their minds early with healthy eating relationships with food.
- “We don’t leave the sweet nor salty treats out 24/7 over the holidays. Rather, we bring out the salty treats as appetizers before dinner, and a tray of sweets after lunch or supper. Once we’ve all enjoyed what we want, they get put away again. Helps to limit the mindless grazing – out of site, out of mind” Almost everyone has the fancy treat dishes that they keep out over Christmas (above reaching distance of little children and animals of course) but a great idea is to keep the dishes tucked away in the cupboard and only bring them out at certain times like after dinner and when company is visiting.
- “On Christmas Day we always break apart the eating by going outside for a family walk (dogs included)! When we get back to the house, a hot cup of tea and some raw veggies are offered (the other treats are put away until supper)” Add some physical activity into the mix, whether it’s a walk or an all-out family snow ball fight.
- “Permission to eat and listen to my body… stomach, mouth and heart hunger. Guess what sometime I overindulge but I don’t beat myself… no one’s perfect” Holidays are a special occasion with special food. You shouldn’t deprive yourself. If you are craving a cookie, have one. You won’t be satisfied until you eat it and you might eat double the amount of food trying to stop the craving!
So many great tips! I like indulging myself but I also have integrated each of these tips into my eating behaviors. If there are 3 or 4 different cookies and they all look amazing I am going to eat them, but if I know I have another party coming up I might limit myself to some of the other things I try like dips, chips and other food I can get all year long.
What is the biggest take home message? Allow yourself to relax and enjoy food. If you have made a New Year’s goal for yourself to eat healthy, enjoying some treats over the holidays isn’t derailing your progress, it’s part of the process. Having a treat and “falling off the wagon” isn’t a failure. It’s an expectation! We are humans with eyes, ears, noses, stomachs and brains. All of which work in concert to let us know that something is delicious and we have to eat it. So eat it. Enjoy it but eat your veggies too!
Adrianna Smallwood, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert
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Beware of the over confident Server!
I had the…pleasure… of eating at the Yellow Belly recently with my family. The last couple of times I went there it was for drinks. On a previous visit I had been told that their Cider was in fact not Gluten Free because they used a Champagne Yeast which was contaminated with Barley. I was sorely disappointed but extremely happy that the bartender was so informed. I ordered wine and tried not to daydream about the pint of cider.
On this most recent visit I decided to attempt the menu and order some food. Most of the appetizers were deep friend or gluten containing but I narrowed it down to the Mussels and Smashed Baby Potatoes and decided to ask the waitress about the 2 options. I told the waitress that I was Celiac, I just had a few questions and I was sorry in advance! She informed me that the mussels would be fine and the potatoes were baked and not deep fried and she would get back to me about the sauce on the potatoes once checking with the kitchen to see if it was gluten free. I was so happy and she seemed to be super accommodating.
My next question was about the cider. On the menu was an Apple Cranberry option that had not been there last time I visited. I asked her if it was gluten free. She told me yes indeed it was so I proceeded to explain to her about the Champagne yeast and asked if this particular cider was made differently then. She said she would certainly check on that as well but she was pretty sure it was safe. I felt like I was on a roll!
So I pressed on wards and asked about the entrees. Unfortunately if they weren’t on bread or in bread, everything seemed to be battered in or made with a sauce that included their famous beer. I would have rejoiced in previous years or if it had been gluten free beer but it wasn’t so I just asked if it was possible to order anything without the beer sauce or had it been marinated in the beer as well. The waitress explained that everything could be made gluten free by leaving out sauces or buns but she would again check with the kitchen to make sure.
The rest of the family ordered their drinks and I sat back feeling great because the waitress seemed super confident and knowledgeable and didn’t mind my questions or concerns in the least.
A few minutes later the waitress returned and informed me that the cider was safe, the smashed potatoes were as well and the steak could be made gluten free. I was in heaven and immediately ordered a pint.
The meal was delicious and I ordered a second pint halfway through but 30 minutes later I felt the telltale stomach gurgle and I started to get extremely nauseated. At this point we were paying for bills and I just wanted to hightail it out of there and get home to my own house before the inevitable disaster happened. My fiancé ran 3 red lights on the way home and I couldn’t even panic about cops because I was focusing on not throwing up or something more horrible in his car. I was seconds away from asking him to pull over and humiliating myself in the middle of Kenmount Rd but we made it home and I spent the rest of the night in the bathroom after spending $200 on food that I didn’t get to enjoy which had made me HORRIBLY ill. And let’s not forget about the damage it did to my insides. As Celiacs know, we spend a lot of time worrying about the damage and repair to our intestines because later down the road we have higher risks of malnourishment, osteoporosis and bone breaks.
So the moral of this story. Servers, I know you want to accommodate and do your job but if you don’t think it is possible to avoid cross contamination…TELL the customer. I would have sat there and happily ordered wine all night just to chat with my family. I did not need to order food but I had been made to feel confident that I could. I don’t know if it was the cider or the food but it happened and I shouldn’t have to wonder. I asked enough questions and informed the server of my medical issue.
Future customers….Avoid Yellow Belly at all costs…I give it 2 whopping thumbs down and that is ONLY because I have 2!
The Newfie Celiac Dietitian
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