By Christine Walsh
After a year like 2020, the holidays should be a time to celebrate our strength, courage and perseverance. Although attending holiday parties and gatherings may be off the table, there’s no reason to deny yourself the festive foods and treats that are central to the season.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as good or bad food. All foods provide the calories — or energy — your body needs to survive and function well. The nutritionists at St. Ann’s Community offer the following tips to help keep your nutrition in check as you savor the aroma and flavors of the season.
• Shift your mindset. A simple change in your attitude can help you maintain healthy eating habits and manage your weight. Instead of saying, “I can’t have that,” say, “I choose not to have that.” Making healthy decisions while standing in your power can help to prevent disappointment and resentment. Enjoy your selections by savoring each bite before taking another.
• Choose calories wisely. Indulgent drinks like eggnog and alcohol contain many calories that taste good going down, but they won’t satisfy your hunger. Instead, opt for low-calorie beverages such as water, black coffee, tea, unsweetened iced tea and diet sodas. By saving calories on drinks, you can afford to eat foods you enjoy without paying as great a price.
• Enjoy everything — in moderation. Any treat can fit into a healthy lifestyle — even eggnog! Just choose a small glass and pour a 4 oz. sample. When you find the cookie tray, choose one or two cookies instead of filling a plate. As you take a sip or a bite, be mindful of how you feel. Are you delighted? Sometimes a sample is all you need to satisfy a craving.
• Include exercise on the menu. The best recipe for optimal health at any age includes staying physically active, even in the cold winter months. Some safe indoor options for seniors include resistance bands and dumbbell workouts, chair yoga or Pilates, water aerobics, and walking. If you walk outside, choose a well-lit area clear of snow and ice. Whichever activities you choose, make sure you wear appropriate apparel and footwear.
• Get your vitamin D. While eating a well-balanced diet provides most of the nutrients you need, the winter months make it harder to get enough vitamin D to support immunity and to absorb minerals, such as calcium. To boost your vitamin D levels naturally, soak up 10 to 30 minutes of sunlight, several times per week. Add milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, fatty fish, such as salmon, and fortified cereals to your menu. Vitamin D supplements are another option but talk with your doctor beforehand to avoid any potential problems or drug interactions.
So, warm your heart and lift your spirits this holiday with the seasonal foods you enjoy. The fond memories of happy times with friends and family they elicit will go a long way to helping you stay healthy, upbeat, and hopeful throughout the winter months to come.
Christine Walsh, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition services manager at St. Ann’s Community. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.stannscommunity.com.