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Does being an RDN mean giving up holiday favorites?

Written by: Erin Boatwright
Monday December 7, 2015

With Thanksgiving over and more holidays coming, I started to wonder, how does a nutrition professional do the holidays? Next year I’ll be a dietitian, so does that mean I’m not supposed to eat the sweet potato soufflé packed with white flour and topped with marshmallows?! Holiday meals, especially in Georgia, are heavy in saturated fats and carbohydrates and even though there are vegetables, they are often buried in a sauce. Will I lose credibility if my plate isn’t a perfect MyPlate?

I checked out some of my favorite nutrition blogs and they were full of tasty looking twists on favorites like green bean casserole, roasted carrots, stuffing and pumpkin pie. It made me excited to see so many fresh looking vegetables and fewer casserole dishes. There were even recipes with sneaky substitutions such as cauliflower mash instead of mashed potatoes.

Even with these great recipes I ended up storing for later use, I still felt that using them in lieu of Grandma’s recipes would leave me unfulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, I love MyPlate and my everyday diet fits well with this, but if I’m being honest with myself, even when my name is followed by RDN I’m probably still going to indulge in my favorite holiday foods. Moreso, when I do, I’m likely going to eat more than the ½ cup recommended serving size, and I promise you I’m going to enjoy Every. Single. Bite.

I read an unexpected statistic on The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website recently that the average weight gain over the holidays is only 1-2 pounds.

Really? That’s it?

Don’t get me wrong, my goal is never to gain weight, but this statistic gives me some comfort knowing that after the holidays my pants are still probably going to fit. When Hanukkah starts next week, I’m making a vow not to spend my day worrying about balancing my macros and counting my calories. I’m going to have the fried potato latkes, with white potatoes! This is the tradition I grew up with and I enjoy once a year. Recognizing it is ok to enjoy holiday foods in moderation will help me become a better dietitian. A dietitian should never expect patients to behave in a manner that we are unable to fulfil ourselves. Even dietitians are human, and we too have our favorite holiday foods that may not be the healthiest option on the dinner table, but that doesn’t mean we have to avoid them.

It is my hope that dietitians do the holidays like everyone else by remembering the reason for the season, enjoying family, eating the food they enjoy, and then heading to the gym on January 1 to make-up for that last piece (or two) of pie. Happy Holidays!