How Dietitians Approach The Holiday Season | Nutrition & Mindset Tips

Dec 16, 2021

The holiday season brings about an opportunity to enjoy traditional foods or seasonal indulgences with family and friends. In this article, the Registered Dietitians at Vitality Nutrition uncover their top nutrition, mindset, and lifestyle tips to balance your health and wellness while enjoying the foods that make the holiday season so special!

If you'd like to listen to this content, we recorded a Podcast that delves into a deeper discussion on each tip! You can find it here.





Many people go into the holiday season with a mindset of “saving” their calories for a large meal later in the day. However, restricting calories during the day can cause you to become overly hungry before the meal which often leads to a physiologically (and psychological) drive to eat until uncomfortably full when you do have access to food. Consider a pendulum swinging, if the pendulum swings too far to one side it's only normal for it to swing hard to the other side. This is much like your body swinging from 'ravenously hungry' to 'uncomfortably full.'


As Registered Dietitians, we recommend eating regular meals (and even snacks!) throughout the day to stabilize your blood sugar and manage your hunger levels! By supporting your body in this way, you may find yourself more easily able to enjoy satisfying amounts of the foods you most enjoy at a holiday meal or gathering.



Embracing movement through your day can take many forms. It may be your regular workout routine, a walk with family, or a fun activity like tobogganing, skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or shovelling snow (is that considered fun? Ha!)!

Moving your body isn't about 'earning your calories' or ' burning off the treats or holiday meal.' As Registered Dietitians, we prioritize movement as a way to support digestion, metabolism, sleep, and blood sugars. We also enjoy movement to remain connected to routines that ground us and even to connect with family and friends! 



"If you don't love it, don't eat it. And if you love it, savour it" - Evelyn Tribole

For many, the holiday season includes an abundance of food. As dietitian, we believe that it is a privilege to have access to nourishing and delicious food. However, we understand that it can be overwhelming to navigate the variety of food options available to us!

In our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program, we'll often invite clients to reflect on the food choices that they love most and make their holiday season special! We invite them to be 'choose-y' in selecting the food (and beverage!) choices that bring them the most joy and satisfaction. This also may mean leaving behind those foods you don't truly love or enjoy often at other times of the year!

For example, a client acknowledge that she doesn't love mash potatoes and was 'ok' leaving those behind to make room for perogies which are her favorite!

Of course, the foods you love will be unique to your personal preferences. However, prioritizing the food you enjoy can help you manage your intake to leave the meal feeling politely full (instead of uncomfortable) and satisfied in having enjoyed the foods you love most!


It's common for people to get trapped into 'all or nothing' thinking whereby they believe one meal where they 'overate' or ate outside of their 'normal' routine will derail their health and wellness goals. Truthfully, one meal out of the 100s of meals you enjoy in a year isn't a 'make or break' when it comes to your health and wellness journey. Not to mention, a holiday meal provides connection that may improve your emotional and mental health!

Remind yourself that balanced meals will be available to you the next day or when you return to your routine. By resuming your 'normal' nutrition habits (which for us includes blood sugar supporting meals!) you can find balance and continue to make progress towards your specific goals. You may even find that by returning to your 'normal' routine (when it is available to you!) allows you to feel less anxious about holiday meals because you understand how these types of events can easily be included (and enjoyed!) as you make progress towards your goals. 




Dietitian Courtney defines an anchor habit as an action within your daily routine that supports your physical body, makes you feel grounded, or instills confidence in your mindset. The holiday season may be a time where routines or environments are ever-changing. By being consistent with an anchor habit, you'll have a steady and family habit in your routine!

For example, Courtney has an anchor habit of walking daily and journalling in the morning. These anchor habits are available to her (even while travelling!) and make her feel connected to a familiar routine which in turn makes her feel more grounded and confident!

Beyond supporting your physical body, staying committed to an anchor habit may make you feel empowered because you showed up to take care of yourself for the day. For many, this translates to feeling confident and empowered to continue to make choices that feel nourishing and aligned. Your anchor habit will be unique to you but is likely a supportive action that is a already a consistent part of your daily routine.


Munching and nibbling on the selection of appetizers, cookies, and chocolates is an enjoyable part of the holiday and a fun way to connect! It is common (and expected!) to engage in extra snacking when food is in arm's reach.

However, if you notice your grazing is becoming mindless and that you aren't savouring the foods you are eating, then you may take advantage of situating yourself differently in your environment! For example, instead of visiting around the island spread of food in the kitchen, you may choose to visit in the living room away from the food.

By simply changing where you are situated in your environment you'll create physical distance from the food which will allow you to be more intentional in eating in a way that is mindful and intentional!


Take a pause halfway though the meal as an opportunity to reflect on your body's hunger and fullness cues. Pausing halfway through the meal is an opportunity to reflect on what on your plate you are most enjoying and decide how much more you need to eat to feel satisfied or pleasantly full!


We all have a story about ourselves yourself — about who we are, why we make the choices you do, and how much power we have over those choices. Oftentimes clients share that they feel like they are simply the 'type of person' who alway overeats or is 'out of control' during the holiday season. Letting go of limiting identities, means exploring, shifting, and potentially changing the stories that no longer serve you!

Notice your inner dialogue or narrative around holiday events! If you want to be the type of person who moves through the holiday season feeling aligned in your choices, then you have to believe that experience is available to you. With practice and self-awareness, you can let-go of limiting identities and embrace choices that align with how you want to feel through the holiday season!

For example, a client inside of our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program used to you believe that she was the type of person who would always eats until uncomfortably full at social events like a holiday meal. This made the holiday season less enjoyable because she felt anxious around food! At first, she felt uncertain when asked if she believed she could shift to an identity where she enjoyed her favorite foods and left the event feeling comfortably full. However, she mustered about the courage to question her limiting identity around holiday eating. She took one small action step and committed to pausing halfway through the meal to reflect on her hunger and fullness cues. In her first experience, she did still feel that she overate but it was an improvement from her previous experiences. This instilled confidence that change was available to her! With more and more practice she became continually confident that she could easily enjoy social events without feeling 'out of control' around food or uncomfortable at the end of the meal.


The decision to drink alcohol is highly individualized and a choice to make in the context of your personal values. For many, deciding not to drink means maintaining a boundary. A simple, "no thanks, I am choosing not to drink tonight" is available for those who choose!

However, if you do decide to drink alcohol there are some key considerations and tips to support your body:

  • Set your boundary beforehand: reflect on how many drinks align with your personal goals and the way you want to feel during and after the event. It is difficult to set (and maintain!) a boundary once we start drinking. For example, if you decide that three drinks is your limit then it will be easier to adhere to that commitment and intentionally space your drinks throughout the night!
  • Drink a glass of water for each alcoholic beverage: by drinking a glass of water between (or alongside!) your alcoholic beverage you will offset the dehydrating effects of alcohol! Additionally, you may find that by filling your belly with water you are more easily able to space your drinks across the event.
  • Supplement with electrolytes: Many symptoms of hangover (ie. headache and fatigue!) are due to dehydration. Hydration include both fluids and electrolytes! If you want to minimize the side effects of alcohol, try adding an electryoltes supplement the night of drinking and the next morning. We recommend the brand Nuun which you can find at Sobeys (natural food section), London Drugs (pharmacy section), and Sportchek. Simply mix one tablet with 500-750mL of water and drink it before bed and mix a second tablet and enjoy it immediately upon waking!



As Registered Dietitians, we believe that food truly is a key component of what makes the holiday season so special. However, sometimes we can get so caught up in planning, preparing, and eating food that we forget about other activities and traditions that bring enjoyment and connection. Focus beyond the food by planning and enjoying your favorite holiday activities! Examples of non-food activities include: skating, tobogganing, playing board games, looking at Christmas lights, watching a holiday movie, and more. By shifting your focus beyond the food you'll ensure you savor all of the moments that make the holiday season so special! 



Many holiday favourites only come out this time of year.  When we really love the taste of something it can be tempting to scarf it down but try to slow down and savour the flavours and really enjoy it! This way you are going to enjoy all the delicious things the holidays have to offer as well as tune into your own fullness cues. 
Why should the good food stop after the party? If it is an option, take some leftovers home. This helps decrease the novelty which can sometimes lead us to overeating because ‘we are not going to have this again for a year.’ Plus, who doesn’t love a Christmas turkey sandwich! 
The holidays are a great time to get together with friends and family that you may have not seen for a while. This also means that there is almost guaranteed to be that one aunt who can’t stop talking about the newest diet she is trying. If you are working on your relationship with food, go into holiday get togethers with a plan. Setting boundaries can look different for everyone. Some might opt to state that talking about diets is not something you are interested in, you can redirect the conversation by bringing up your favourite Netflix’s show, stay silent and let the conversation pass, or excuse yourself from the room! 
No matter what you ate at the holiday event, no matter if you are stressed or anxious, no matter if you have to wear a certain piece of clothing later; you deserve to eat today. Your body still needs food energy, and nourishment. Let go of any guilt you may be experiencing, move forward, and hydrate, move, and fuel your body out of self-love and care.



Christmas is a time to gather with friends and family - for many, that means enjoying food at family gatherings and holiday events! We understand that navigating these unique food environments can be challenging for those who are also seeking balance with their health and wellness goals. Our tips are designed to help you make choices that keep you feeling well while enjoying the unique food that offer you joy and connection this holiday season!

 If you'd like to listen to this content, we recorded a Podcast that delves into a deeper discussion on each tip! You can find it here.

Ready to bring the evidence-based nutrition support of our Registered Dietitians into your kitchen? 

Check out Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching!

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