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Holiday eating: You can survive the season and enjoy it, too!

Our resident dietitian, Ashley Hurley, offers some perspective on how to enjoy the fruits of the holiday season while still feeling in control of your eating
You don’t have to feel bad about enjoying the foods of the holiday season, says nutritionist Ashley Hurley. You can enjoy and still feel in control. 

Don’t just survive holiday eating — savour it! 

For some of us, holiday eating can feel like Armageddon — a battle between good and evil followed by the Day of Judgement. 

When we label food as “good” or “evil” and restrict ourselves to only the best or right foods, if we eat foods we think are immoral or bad we may, by extension, feel that we are immoral or bad. 

Paradoxically, this can lead to eating more of these foods.

This festive season, drop the labels and see food for what it really is — nourishing and nurturing. Striking the balance can be as easy as 1-2-3 with these three strategies.

1. Swap the bathroom scale for the hunger scale – While you may think skipping meals during the day to ‘save’ calories for suppers and parties is a good idea, we do not do our best decision making when we’re hungry. Think of your hunger on a scale of one to 10 where at a one you feel ravenous and at a 10 you feel so stuffed you might be sick. There is a lot of space between those two extremes. The holiday season can get chaotic, but sticking to a regular meal schedule, eating at a four on the hunger scale and stopping at a seven, can help you feel in charge of your choices.

2. Thoughtful reduction – This term, coined by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, involves asking yourself two questions before making food choices. First, is it worth the calories? Second, how much of it do you need to feel satisfied? This strategy helps you to avoid an all-or-nothing approach. Instead of choosing all of the food or none of the food, ask yourself these questions to thoughtfully reduce without feeling deprived or restricted.

3. Renovate your environment – What does willpower have to do with it when you’re being prompted to eat all day long by the world around you? Make changes to your surroundings to reduce your exposure to triggers for impulsive or mindless eating. Renovate your environment by removing distractions while eating, avoiding buying in bulk, limiting the choices you have on hand, and keeping foods out of sight in the fridge or cupboard instead of on counters or in candy dishes.

The bottom line is that we can’t expect ourselves to eat perfectly (whatever that even means!) and it’s not simply a matter of being in or out of control. 

Perfect is the enemy of good and some days good is good enough. If you’re concerned about how to manage holiday eating, use these three strategies to bring you peace and joy — after all, that is the reason for the season!

Ashley Hurley is a Registered Dietitian at City of Lakes Family Health Team in Sudbury, ON. Do you have questions about nutrition or healthy eating? Visit to call or email a dietitian for free!