Holiday Nutrition: Fact vs. Fiction

Would you believe that the average American gains 7–10 pounds between Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve…is a lie? The multi-billion dollar diet industry is notorious for stretching the truth or promoting outright false information with the primary goal of making a profit. Bombarded with good marketing promoting bad information, we often internalize beliefs that lead us to cycle between under- and over-eating, practice unsustainable and unhelpful behaviors, and feel anxious and guilty about eating.

This holiday season, use this guide to help separate fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition and health so you can fully enjoy the food, family, friends, and festivities.

Fiction: Pumpkin pie, honey ham, and casseroles should be limited to holiday meals only.

Fact: There’s no need to limit foods to a certain day. The more access to and permission with food we give ourselves, the more we feel in charge of our eating versus out of control with “holiday food.” Giving ourselves permission to eat all foods at any time of year removes the power from the food.

Fiction: Save up calories for the big feast!

Fact: Skipping meals leads to overeating. In 2019, it’s easy to forget that our bodies are still programmed for survival. To our caveman brains, a skipped meal is a sign of famine. Next time food is around, our primal survival skills kick in and we begin to feast…and then over-feast. Instead, we can nourish our bodies with adequate and consistent energy throughout the day, especially on holidays.

Fiction: Holidays = cheat days

Fact: Cheating on a diet means it’s time to break up! Regularly eating a variety of foods ensures sustenance and satisfaction.

Fiction: Eat this, not that.

Fact: Replacing a food that we enjoy and crave with a less desirable version is restriction. Savor the real thing! Survey the food spread at a next holiday party before plating up. Assess hunger and cravings, and then we can serve ourselves accordingly. Experiment with the right balance of satisfying wants and meeting the body’s needs.

Fiction: Avoid the appetizer table and snack bowls.

Fact: Warm appetizers and salty snacks have a place in our diet, just like every other food. If snacks are calling us, make a small plate, be merry, and mingle. No need to avoid the pre-meal goodies!

Practicing “Presents” This Holiday Season

  1. Check in with hunger and fullness cues before and after each meal. Tune in, listen, and respond in a nourishing way that tastes and feels good. 
  2. Set intentions for meals. Establishing a plan or a goal for each meal guides food choices and amount eaten, and it encourages presence with loved ones during a special meal.
  3. Ditch rigid rules and food guilt. Our thoughts around food evolve into feelings about food. Strict food rules ultimately lead to food guilt, so throw out strict food rules to end all food guilt. (Perhaps a New Year’s Resolution!)

Caroline Pruente, MS, RDN is a nutrition therapist and Registered Dietitian at Memphis Nutrition Group. Memphis Nutrition Group believes in a non-diet approach that promotes overall health and optimal performance without compromising the enjoyment of food. For more information call Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit MemphisNutritionGroup.com.

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