Holiday cookies are something to look forward to every year — they’re festive and delicious and come in so many different varieties, it’s impossible to choose a favorite. Similarly, seasonal cocktails can be just as fun and celebratory if consumed responsibly. However, with diet culture recommending “staying away from” or “earning” certain foods and drinks, it can be confusing to know if, when and how to enjoy a holiday treat. It often helps to look at nutrition with a bit more perspective, and less of a diet-culture lens.
As you might have guessed, nutrition facts for cookies and cocktails are not impressive. Neither are good sources of vitamins, minerals, protein or healthy fats and a side-by-side comparison of calories and sugar can also greatly vary depending on what type of cookie or cocktail you choose. Moreover, these comparisons are often pointless since we don’t consume either for the nutritional benefits (you probably knew that already, too).
Holiday cookies can bring about feelings of comfort, nostalgia and family togetherness. There is no denying the emotional component to food, eating and nutritional health doesn’t mean much if emotional and mental health are down in the tubes or not being prioritized. That’s why recognizing what you need in a given moment — comfort, a nutrient-dense meal, social connection, a sweet treat — is so important and changes constantly. Cookies may not help you meet your vitamin or mineral needs on a given day, but they can nourish the soul. Similarly, kale may not give you that sense of nostalgia or comfort, but it provides the body with some necessary nutrients. Both matter, but for different reasons and at different times.
Cookies are also delicious, and since holiday versions are usually only around for a few weeks, it would be a shame to miss out on them because of negative diet culture. To fully enjoy your favorite holiday cookies, try eating them more mindfully. Eat them slowly, in a relaxed setting, and savor how good they taste. It’s easiest to do this when you’ve been nourishing your body consistently with regular, well-balanced meals throughout the day and not just going for the cookies when you’re starving or feeling deprived.
While holiday cocktails can also be tasty, seasonal treats, the fact that they contain alcohol should always be taken into account. Alcohol can negatively impact sleep and is an independent risk factor for certain chronic diseases and cancer, and even as little as one drink per day can increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Alcohol is also a popular coping mechanism that may be abused more during the holidays than any other time of year. If you are noticing an unhealthy pattern with your alcohol intake, it’s a good idea to seek the help of a healthcare professional.
READ MORE > 10 COCKTAIL HACKS FOR HEALTHIER HOLIDAY DRINKING
If you have a healthy relationship with alcohol and a holiday cocktail sounds good to you, go for it. Aim to consume cocktails slowly and mindfully, while having consistent, regular meals, and avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Also, consider opting for an alcohol-free mocktail.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As a “non-diet” registered dietitian, I believe no foods should be off-limits. I encourage you to look at the bigger picture of your diet as a whole and how these treats may (or may not) play a role in your overall well-being this time of year. Talking about “saving up” calories or “earning” these foods and drinks promotes a terrible relationship with food and our body that persists long after the holidays are over. Instead, give yourself permission to have your favorite treat when it sounds good to you, whether it’s a cookie, cocktail, or both, and keep nourishing your body with a variety of whole foods throughout the holiday season and beyond.
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.