Eating Healthy During the Holidays

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Eating Healthy

The holiday season is in full swing, people are doing last minute shopping, families and friends are finalizing lunch or dinner plans; it’s just a magical time. Is it okay therefore to forget about eating healthy, just for the season? The short answer is no; especially for people living with Chronic Non Communicable Diseases (CNCDs) such as Diabetes and Hypertension.

So how do we eat healthy throughout this season of merriment and over indulging? It all really comes down to properly planning meals.

Planning meals allows you to think ahead about the nutritive value and calorie content of meals to be consumed. Remember a balanced diet means eating regular moderate amounts of food from all of the Caribbean’s six food groups namely:

  1. Staples (e.g. green bananas, rice, oats, flour, chow mein)
  2. Foods from Animals (e.g. chicken, fish, pork, eggs, beef, sausage, milk, yogurt)
  3. Fruits (e.g. ripe bananas, apples, pears, plums, golden apples or june plums)
  4. Vegetables (cucumber, christophenes, carrots, pumpkins, lettuce)
  5. Fats & oils (vegetable oil, avocado pear, Jamaican ackee, bacon, coconut milk)
  6. Legumes (pigeon peas, lentils, split peas)

This ensures that you get sufficient energy, protein, vitamins and minerals daily. Planning your meals using the tips below should help you to eat healthy during the holidays:


Mentally balance meals

You know you will be having lunch or dinner at a relative’s house, and chances are you will be having dessert, then you should skip the 2 teaspoons of sugar in your porridge or tea and reduce your staple serving by one at breakfast.

When at lunch or dinner, look at the foods in terms of their food groups, then mentally measure out how much to consume, and put only that amount on your plate. For instance, if you normally have three servings of staples (2 fingers of green banana and ½ cup of chow mein) with lunch, you should keep that same number of servings when at the buffet, despite the myriad of options that will be available. Additionally, it is always helpful to fill half of your plate with vegetables.

Eat Moderately

Do not skip meals

It is recommended to eat moderate regularly spaced meals throughout the day. People who eat three balanced meals and two healthful snacks daily, tend not to overeat at any meal and therefore are most likely to be closer to their ideal weight for height.

So if you know you will be doing some last minute shopping, in anticipation of the traffic and long lines, pack a ripe banana and an orange or some carrot and celery sticks with a bottle water to munch on at some point during your rushing.

Eat Vegetables

When hungry, eat vegetables

Vegetables are low calorie foods, filled with vitamins and minerals and fibre. You can eat as much as desired for raw vegetables, which can help you to feel fuller on fewer calories. It’s wise then to fill the plate as much as possible with vegetables at meal time, thereby leaving less space for dessert and seconds.

Sweet Cookies

Moderately treat yourself.

The World Health Organization states that each person is allowed sugars of up to 10% of their total calories daily. Therefore, a little sugar each day is permissible, and will usually decrease any cravings that may arise.

Other important things to remember are:

  1. Stay active
  2. Drink lots of water
  3. Take your medications as prescribed.

Staying active may even be just walking around to get those last minute gifts, or putting the final touches to create that Christmassy ambiance at home, all contribute to burning calories. Even more effective in burning calories would be including some structured work out time with family and friends, thirty minutes for three days each week.

Though this may be the season of sorrel, eggnog, fruit cake/black cake and rum punch, always endeavor to drink your 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. And always take your medications as prescribed.

Ensure that you consult your doctor before consuming alcohol if you are on medications. Always drink moderately and responsibly; two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Your registered dietitian/nutritionist can assist you with properly planning your meals to ensure you continue to eat healthy throughout the holiday season.

Keep safe and healthy throughout this Christmas Season… Happy Holidays!

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Renee Amoy Thompson holds a MSc in Nutrition and is active in the field of dietetics/nutrition as a Registered Nutritionist, Nutrition Researcher and Project Manager, and Nutrition and Health Educator.

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