Healthy Holiday Eating Tips from NYC Nutritionist Group: Boost Your Immune System, Avoid Holiday Weight Gain, and Enjoy Your Favorite Flavors

There’s this mythic idea that everybody gains weight during the holidays. The average American actually only gains one pound from Halloween through the New Year. The problem is, though, they rarely lose it. So, gaining one pound/year for twenty years … adds up.
The holidays also are a time when we are most vulnerable to sickness. With the high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat foods that are abundant during this time of year, added to common financial and social stressors, and a drop in activity because of the cold winter months, we’re setting up our immune systems to crash and burn.

This year, take the time to take care of yourself and keep your immune system strong.

1. Indulge. When you attend a holiday party or meal, choose two or three things that you really want to try (kugel, pumpkin pie, egg nog etc.), then pile the rest of your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. This gives you the flavors of the holidays without going overboard.

2. Lower your anxiety levels. There’s something called the gut-brain axis – this two-way highway that communicates your GI tract to your CNS (central nervous system). The gut produces 90% of the serotonin (that feel-good chemical) in our bodies. Gut health means mental health. What we eat and how we eat have a direct effect on our emotional well-being.
a. Eat foods high in antioxidants (beans, fruits, berries, nuts, veggies)
b. Improve gut health with probiotics and prebiotics (an apple and oats with yogurt, feta cheese and onions on leafy green salads, dandelion greens and Manchego cheese)
c. Boost zinc (cashews, beef and egg yolks) and Omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish and flaxseed oil)
d. Increase magnesium (leafy greens, nuts, Swiss chard). These additions to your daily snacks and meals can help reduce holiday-induced stress.

3. Give your immune system nutrition support. This Harvard Health article explains how micronutrient deficiencies can alter a body’s immune response. Many people believe supplements cover all nutrient needs. This is wrong. A balanced diet including vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron and protein, all nutrients that have been identified as being critical for the function of immune cells, with supplements (when needed) is ideal. So, what to do?
a. Go Mediterranean. Eat a plant-forward diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats (predominantly fish), and grains.

4. Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol is a calorie bomb, and it can really ding your immune system. Because it’s liquid, we often forget how laden with calories and sugar it often is. Drink one glass of wine at a party, then sparkling water. Enjoy the flavors of the season without going overboard.

5. Step away from the buffet table (or bar). Mingle. Have a seltzer water in hand at all times. Weight maintenance is about long-term health and wellness. Food doesn’t make a party, friends and family do.

6. Say “No thank you.” Oftentimes expectation can lead to stress which leads to overeating and just feeling bad. Not every holiday invitation need be accepted. Set your limits. Enjoy quiet evenings at home. Change things up and have a Thanksgiving Sandwich holiday instead of feeling overwhelmed with making a huge meal. Celebration is about intent and friends and family – no need to stick to something that makes you feel miserable. Set your terms.
Here at NYC Nutritionist group, we wish you a healthy, happy holiday season filled with good friends, family, and wellness.