By: Leah Golden, MS, RD

Can you believe it?  We’re looking at Halloween in our rear-view mirror and have officially arrived in the holiday season.  With Thanksgiving a week away, many of us our prepping for a holiday spent with family, friends, loved ones and of course delicious FOOD (and drinks). For many, this is a free for all and a time when people stuff themselves to the brim, only to feel less than peppy in the morning. Am I right?

While I don’t have the mindset of restricting or having off limit foods, it’s important to think about what food and drinks you’re putting into your body. In whatever environment you’re in during the festive season, I encourage you to strive for balance, enjoy your favorites foods and savor your time with loved ones. Last year I shared some holiday tips to stay healthy during the holidays. Here are some additional tools that may help shift your mindset as we begin the festive season. Cheers!

Intuitive and Mindful Eating

I’ve touched on the topic of mindful eating in a post last year, but I’ve expanded on intuitive eating because I think it’s an important tool to have in your back pocket. So what’s the difference?

Intuitive eating is an evidenced-based model where the focus is shifted more on internal cues, honoring hunger and satiety, no guilt, non-diet approach to eating. This means, no macros, no calories and no MyFintessPal 😊. Getting in tune with our bodies can be such a rewarding and emotionally refreshing feeling if you’ve grown up with food rules and restrictions. As babies, we’re born intuitive eaters. If you’ve ever seen a baby push the spoon away during a meal or pull away while nursing, this typically is the “I’m done!” signal. It’s when we grow up that these internal cues become muted and ignored.  

Mindful eating is a less defined concept of becoming more attentive while eating. Being aware of hunger and satiety cues, enjoying foods without distraction, using all your senses to become  more connected to the food that goes into your body. Turn that TV off!

These practices can be surprisingly helpful during the holiday time (and beyond) where we are surrounded by many foods and drinks.  If you’d like to learn more about this practice, I’m happy to sit down with you for an appointment to discuss how to incorporate this into your daily habit.

Eat Real, Whole Foods

Seems simple enough, right? While you may be used to the canned cranberry sauce, pre-cooked turkey or sweet potato casserole loaded with brown sugar and mini marshmallows, you can make simple swaps for a tasty and healthier holiday.  I’d rather you eat real, whole foods than processed, chemical loaded, artificially sweetened, high sodium foods. While you may not have control over all the dishes at your next event, offer to make a dish or two and keep these ideas in mind.

    • Homemade roasted turkey vs store bought
    • As expected, most store bought, pre-prepared foods will be full of sodium and other potential additives to give the turkey the best flavor possible. If roasting your own turkey seems like too much work, think about roasting just a turkey breast. It’ll take less time, no carving necessary and likely less wasted turkey.  After a turkey sandwiches for every meal after Thanksgiving dinner, there’s bound to be some turkey thrown out. Let’s not create more waste!
    • Roasted brussels sprouts or green beans vs green bean casserole
    • Roasted vegetables are always a great way to add some nutrition and flavor to your holiday meal. Ditch the sodium laden canned cream of mushroom soup and packaged fried onions. If you want to continue this traditional dish, make your own cream of mushroom soup and fried onions.  You may even have fun making your own soup.
    • Mashed or roasted sweet potatoes vs traditional sweet potato casserole (with the brown sugar and mini marshmallows)
    • I know those mini marshmallows are yummy, but why not roast some sweet potatoes and/or winter squash, sprinkle with chopped nuts and drizzle with some natural maple syrup for a bit of sweetness. Save those marshmallows for the campfire! If you can’t pass up this traditional dish, try using less butter and sugar and sprinkle with less marshmallows.
    • Homemade gravy vs store bought (packet gravy).
    • Many of you may already make your own, but I find homemade gravy SO much better. Traditionally in my home growing up (and still to this day) my Mom makes a roasted vegetable gravy with turkey drippings and vegetables from the turkey pan. It’s whipped into a delicious gravy that’s fantastic with turkey or on its own 😊.

Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

When it comes to reaching your health and wellness goals, it’s a process. Goals take time, especially when it comes making lifelong behavior changes. No one is perfect. Each meal, exercise sesh, and day is an opportunity to get back on track and keep moving forward. If you have the mentality of giving up after you’ve taken a small detour from your plan, you may be setting up yourself for continued disappointment. Work on applauding yourself for the successes and improvements you’ve already made. If Thanksgiving Day you eat all the food and drink all the drinks (it’s just one day), don’t let that turn into a four-day weekend bender. Keep your plan moving forward! You got this!

Splash that dish with Color!

You’ve probably heard the phrase “eat the rainbow,” yes? Well, keep this idea in mind as we dive into the holidays. Think of brightening your plate with a splash of color, along with all those spuds. In Northern California, the bright seasonal foods include pomegranates, persimmons, winter squash, peppers, and purple cabbage. Not only will the diverse colors be more beautiful and appealing to the eyes, but it’ll provide a variety of bioactive compounds and antioxidants. These compounds have health benefits like helping to reduce inflammation, improve immune function and reduce cardiovascular disease. I’d say that’s a win!

Keep these tips in mind as you navigate the upcoming season. But remember that the holidays are about spending time with people we care about, thinking of all we have to be grateful for and having a good ol’ time.  Enjoy your holiday!


To get started on a Wellness Program with Leah, including  Nutrition Counseling and Small Group Training, please contact for more details.