If you’re anything like us, eating around the holidays goes something like this: You think you’re going to stick to the healthy options, but when you see the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all the desserts, you can’t say no. And then, while you’re nursing a food baby, you start to feel guilty about opting for that slice (or three) of pie.
But here’s the reality: When delicious food in front of you, it’s hard not to eat it. Science has shown again and again that our willpower isn’t as strong as we think it is. And that’s OK. The leading nutrition researchers agree that a healthy diet means not depriving yourself of the foods you really enjoy. At a recent conference, more than two dozen nutrition experts put out a joint statement that said:
Strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns. Rather, individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy dietary patterns, and these strategies should be tailored to meet the individual’s health needs, dietary preferences, and cultural traditions. Current research also strongly demonstrates that regular physical activity promotes health and reduces chronic disease risk.
Yep, you read that right. Aim for a combo of nutritious foods and don’t worry too much about adding a few not-so-healthy ones to your plate. And maybe hit the gym this holiday season (but only after you’ve spent time with your fam).
As Marion Nestle, a professor studying food policy and nutrition, told Vox: “Thanksgiving is not the cause of [being] overweight. It’s the other 364 days of living in a relentless food marketing environment—food sold everywhere, 24/7, in huge portions—that makes weight control so difficult.”