Holiday Cooking class

October 18, 2022

by Jennifer Lease, RD, Senior Manager of Nutrition at the YMCA of Metro Denver 

The holiday season can feel hard when you’re focused on your health. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and whether you’re someone working to prevent a chronic disease, like Diabetes, or manage one, the holidays can bring up stress and fear around food choices. 

Here are some tips to help you stay on track with mindfulness, self-compassion and flexibility that allow you to stay present and enjoy this time of year: 

  1. Be mindful and intentional about your choices.  

This is really all about approaching your choices and behaviors without judgment, and giving yourself permission to make the choices you do. When it comes to the holidays, there’s usually special dishes with meaning for you, as well as sweets and treats you look forward to. You deserve to enjoy those! It’s important to give yourself genuine permission to enjoy those foods so you’re not left feeling badly about those choices. Even when preventing or managing a chronic disease, there’s still room for including these foods. With intention, you can choose the dishes you don’t want to miss, include them on your plate in portion sizes that feel good for you, and feel guilt-free afterwards. 

  1. Practice gentle nutrition. 

You can still keep nutrition principles in mind during holiday meals, with a bit of flexibility and grace for yourself at the same time. You can enjoy a bit of everything with some balance and portion control (and you’ll feel better after the meal, too!). The basics of a balanced plate to support blood sugar control include protein, veggies, and a starch or grain. Try filling half of your plate with veggie dishes and then take a smaller portion of the others you want to try. Holiday dishes tend to be heavy on starchy foods, so don’t forget some protein (like turkey or chicken) to create balance. Remember to check in with your hunger and fullness cues as you enjoy your meal, too, so you can stop eating when you feel comfortably full. 

  1. Don’t overcompensate for the holidays – you can get right back on track. 

This may sound easier said than done. We tend to overcompensate after more indulgent meals, like those during the holidays – this can look like restricting your food intake for a day or more, exercising more than usual, or even punishing yourself with negative self-talk. The ways we overcompensate can actually worsen blood sugar control and backfire. It’s important to remember that every day is a new day to reset. When you’re mindful and intentional about your food choices and practice gentle nutrition, this feels easier - you’re better able to move onto the next day, getting back on track with your usual eating patterns to support your health. 

The holiday season should be a time of joy and celebration, and that includes lots of yummy food! If you find yourself feeling stress, anxiety or fear about food as you approach holiday meals, our Health & Well-being team at the Y can help. Learn about all of our nutrition programming and our Diabetes Prevention Program

Category: Healthy Eating