The holiday season is upon on us, and for many people that means celebrations with friends and family and a lot of delicious foods. Many consumers, and even caregivers, have diet restrictions, which can make the holidays a difficult time to stay on track. Around-the-clock caregivers and their care teams have the ability to collaborate with consumers on a realistic plan around healthy eating. As a nurse for 30 years, I've seen strategies that allow people to still enjoy the holidays while maintaining good nutrition.

For the past two years, one of the consumers I support has been trying to manage her weight. She was at high-risk for cardiac arrest and other conditions. She and her son, who is her full-time caregiver, met with a nutritionist to learn about the risks of not adopting a healthier lifestyle. Her son makes her meals, and now she practices portion control. Together, they work as a team to make healthy choices, and she has seen health improvements and weight loss. The holidays can still pose temptations for her, so it is important for them to plan ahead.

Here are some tips to help make good nutritional choices over the holidays:

  • Empower consumers to feel comfortable declining certain foods. It is all in how you say things, but sometimes it can feel rude to turn down a beautiful cake or meal. Let consumers know it is okay to politely say, "No thank you. I'm trying to eat healthy." Empowering the consumer means educating them about the importance of making good choices for their own health. Remind them to look beyond the momentary gratification because often high-sugar or high-fat foods can make people feel sick later.
  • Give the host a heads up about nutritional considerations. A good host will appreciate you letting them know if your loved one has any diet restrictions.
  • Consider bringing your own food. If you are going to a party or a family gathering, consider bringing healthy food. Be sure not to isolate the consumer, and encourage everyone to share the healthy options you've brought.
  • Encourage portion control. If their diet permits, it may be okay for consumers to have a few bites of their favorite dessert. The key is to know your limits, listen to your body, and stop eating when you are full.
  • Lean on your support system. For consumers, it is easier to follow through on new habits when there is a care team and caregiver around who understand their goals and want to see them succeed. The consumer I mentioned really benefits from having her son support her efforts to eat better.

Healthy eating is possible during the holidays; it just requires setting goals, remembering the benefits, and planning ahead.