The holiday season has officially arrived, and with it the constant sight of cookies, candies, cakes and chocolate.  Every weekend includes a party, a get together, or pot luck, all with the promise of delicious and delectable treats and guaranteed over-indulgence.  It’s almost impossible to think of the holidays as a time for healthy eating.  But cakes, cookies and gluttony aside, traditional holiday meals are actually very nutritious.  The following are five tips on healthy holiday eating without feeling deprived.

Don’t skip meals

This is the most common health tip for the holidays – but it’s consistent for a reason.  Eating at regular times throughout the holidays is the best way to fend off over-eating.  Not only does it ensure that you aren’t starving when you get to the party or Grandma’s family dinner, it also maintains your blood sugar throughout the day, which will help reduce the need to taste every dessert on the menu at least once.  Don’t skip breakfast or lunch, and ensure that you have a snack or two between meals including vegetables, fruit and nuts and you’ll be amazed by how satisfied you are before the second helpings come around.

Drink lots of water

With the holidays comes a seemingly mandatory increase in your caffeine and alcohol intake.  These two holiday staples are hard on your liver and kidneys, and increase the risk for dehydration.  So make sure you have your daily 8 oz. of water per day and then some.  Drink a big glass of water before the festivities, one when you get home and a few in between.  This will not only reduce the likelihood of dehydration, but it also reduces the hunger response and will improve digestion so that you don’t still feel full and sluggish boxing day morning.

Eat seasonally

Historically, our traditional holiday meal was a celebration of the harvest and time to transition from eating fresh foods to eating cured and stored foods.  This lead to a big meal including a fresh protein source (typically poultry) along with a combination of fresh vegetables and a variety of fruits and vegetables that would be kept in storage for the rest of the winter.

To ensure healthy holiday season, the best bet is to return to our roots and prepare a meal like our great-great-grandparents would have made.  A turkey roasted with a variety of root vegetables such as potatoes, beets, turnip carrots, onions and garlic, fresh steamed vegetables such as beans, broccoli, kale and cabbage, and baked squash and pumpkins will not only satisfy any hungry belly, but also ensure a nutrient dense meal that contains a variety of important vitamins, minerals and fibre.  To fix the sweet tooth, pick just one or two family favourite desserts to serve, and put the cookies away or give them as gifts.  If the options are limited, the need to have second and third helpings of dessert will be eliminated.

Eat slowly

The holidays are about spending time with the people we love, not about stuffing our faces until the buttons start to pop.  It takes up to 20 minutes for our brains to realize we’re full.  This is often longer than we allow between helpings of dinner.  So take the time to enjoy the company of others, have lively conversations and savor the food that you are being served.  Not only will you feel more emotionally satisfied, but you’re need to hit the buffet for the third time will likely disappear.

Enjoy the Holidays with Healthy Holiday Eating

This is the most important tip of all – HAVE FUN!  Don’t restrict yourself from enjoying the holidays and the goodies that go along with it.  After all, they only come once a year.  The key here is to acknowledge the fact that you want a treat and that you deserve it.  When you give yourself permission to have a good time, you won’t have the guilt afterwards and you will probably not want another helping.  So have that piece of cake or glass of eggnog and have a very happy holiday season!