Food Revolution Network lead dietician Nichole Dandrea-Russert is in for a busy time over the Christmas-New Year break. In the following article, she offers some excellent practical tips on food and keeping yourself grounded in the days ahead.
Many Whole Food Living followers will know Nichole as co-author with Ocean Robins of the recently released Real Superfoods Cookbook, which looks closely at affordable and easily discovered superfoods that do the most good for most people.
“For me, the most important aspect of the holiday is connecting with loved ones by spending time and being present with them through food and celebrations, the act of giving, cultural traditions, and just simply being together,” Nichole says.
“This holiday, in particular, is one that involves a lot of travel for my husband and I, as well as our rescue pup, Mariposa. We are thankful for our families, who are very near and dear to us in our hearts, but my family lives outside of Philadelphia, and my husband’s family lives in Washington State while we live in Atlanta.
“Since seeing our families over the holiday is important to both of us, we have made it a priority to visit both sides of the country every year. For the past 14 years, we have flown to Philadelphia the week before Christmas to spend time with my family. On Christmas day we travel from Philadelphia to Pasco, WA, with a stop in the Minneapolis Airport, where the three of us (husband, dog, and me!) celebrate the holiday together.
“The week after Christmas is spent in Washington state with my husband’s family. It’s a lot of travel, but we wouldn’t have it any other way because it allows us to see and connect with our parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and one surviving grandma on my side who will be 96 this year!”
Keep mentally clear
To stay mentally clear, present and grounded throughout the holiday, Nicole says there are a few things she makes a priority and also recommends to others when it comes to holiday eating.
- Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Fill up on vegetables, like leafy greens, peppers, carrots, and broccoli, whenever possible. This will help you get essential vitamins and minerals, like vitamins C and A, as well as zinc and iron, to stay physically and mentally healthy during the holiday season.
- Add whole plant-based foods to your plate throughout the season to get plenty of fiber, which is important for immune function, as well as brain function and mental wellness.
- Give yourself some grace. Consuming holiday cookies and other treats is quite normal. Let go of expectations and judgment and enjoy the festive traditions. Plus, when you’re eating a plant-forward or an all plant-based diet, you typically fill up on fiber-rich foods, which may leave you feeling full so you’re less likely to overconsume things that don’t serve your best health. But having those things in moderation is A-OK!
- Practice mindful eating. Again, choosing to consume holiday treats is okay, especially when you are intentional with what you’re choosing to eat. Rather than standing by the dessert bar, continuously eating without a thought, you may choose to eat a balanced meal followed by a cookie or two. Being more intentional about what you’re choosing to eat helps you feel good about your choices and your choices can fuel your physical and mental wellness. Mindfulness also involves eating more slowly, chewing thoroughly, and being more present with your food, all of which may help with digestion and minimize stress that can sometimes accompany holiday gatherings.
With the end of another year and a new one closely in sight, Nichole says this time always feels like a good time to reflect.
Finding a quiet space
“The holiday itself can be quite busy, but once the festivities and celebrations come to an end, reflection seems to naturally arise. Since we travel a lot, my deepest reflections and inspirations occur while in the air on the plane.
“It’s the one time when there are no phones or home distractions. I like to practice meditation or breathing exercises on the plane to create space for reflection, ideas, and inspiration to arise. It’s on the plane that I create a list of things for the new year that I’d like to do, try, or accomplish.
“It ends up being a brainstorming session. Then, I’ll break down those ideas into simple, doable steps to develop somewhat of a roadmap of professional and personal goals for the new year ahead. The trick is sticking with it once the plane lands and the busyness of life starts again!
Like many of us the world over, spending more time with family always tops the list of New Year aims for Nichole “because there never seems to be enough time.”
“Globally, I’d love to see and hear some good news on the climate front. My hope is that more people adopt a plant-based, eco-friendly lifestyle — eating more plant-based foods for the planet, yes, but also consciously choosing less plastic and more earth-friendly products in their kitchens, skincare, household goods and more.
“Wasting less, repurposing more, and purchasing less is a direction I think we all need to take to combat climate change and support the planet, leading to better air quality, cleaner water sources, more water sources, more food to feed more people, and better soil health.
“In the current industrial environment and with the growing population, it’s hard to see how we can sustain our health and the planet’s health unless we individually and collectively make conscious efforts to live sustainably. Consuming more plant-based foods is certainly a big component of that.”
Further details …
Nichole Dandrea-Russert, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer.
Food Revolution Network