It’s OK to indulge at the holidays. Just eat nutrient-rich foods the other days of year – Miami Herald

Eating lots of veggies will help you develop a nutrient-rich total diet.

Eating lots of veggies will help you develop a nutrient-rich total diet. Charlotte

I have seen many clients and made many recommendations over the course of my career. And it thrills me when I encounter former clients who tell me my recommendations are influencing them years later.

This happened last week when Carol told me she remembered me saying, “It doesn’t matter what you eat on Thanksgiving, it’s what you eat all the other days of the year.”

I didn’t craft this message but I often repeat it as I think it is such a simple explanation for a total diet approach.

The Dietary Guidelines define total diet as everything a person eats averaged over time. Total diet is the combination of all foods and beverages that provide energy and nutrients.

The variety of food a person eats is more important to health than focusing on a single food or nutrient or meal. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows and pecan pie do not doom someone to health consequences. And the same goes for what is eaten Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

If your diet pattern, whether it is vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or even keto, is built on naturally nutrient-rich foods, then you can absolutely enjoy holiday fare. One meal, one party day, or even a one-week cruise with unlimited buffet does not cause chronic disease.

It is a total diet of nutrient-rich foods over time that provides protection against chronic disease.

Another way of thinking about it: Have 80% of food intake be nutrient rich and allow 20% indulgent. For me that would be about 300 indulgent calories a day if I want them. Indulgence is not a daily requirement but fine if it occurs.

If one accepts and follows a total diet philosophy, then feelings of guilt or cheating would never rear their non-productive heads. Give yourself permission to continue enjoying the holidays with family, friends and, yes, food. It is what you eat before and after the holidays that impacts health.

Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is in private practice in Miami.