Really, your diet just needs to be good enough, not perfect.

I have written a lot of nutrition articles over the past 20 years, including some that revolved around staying healthy during the holidays. Many times I’ve written about food swaps and ways to eat smart at holiday buffets, drink less, or prepare lighter side dishes and appetizers. All that advice still holds (use less butter in your side dishes, use nonfat sour cream or non fat yogurt to lower calories in recipes, make smaller cookies, be sure to have a veggie plate in the mix, etc), still, I want to stress that while eating a balanced, healthy diet is important, there is no such thing as a perfect diet.

There are large bodies of evidence that show diet plays a role in some aspects of health (primarily diabetes and heart health, but also some – not all – cancers), but we are all genetically different. Diet itself can’t cure you of all that ails you, nor stop the aging process. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that healthy eating leads to better health! That’s why I’m in this business…but I’ve always been a proponent of keeping it fad-free and guilt-free.

Why Does Bread Have to be the Bad Guy?

Since just about every trendy weight loss diet out there eliminates or strictly limits bread, you may be wondering how much bread you should be eating. When I’ve counseled clients for weight loss, I always first consider their whole lifestyle, medical history, and exercise habits. I then consider what they enjoy eating now, and then develop a plan for them to create a calorie deficit but balance nutrients.

This may include eating less bread, if their diet was heavy on bread, but it never involves “avoid all bread products” (this of course is referring to advice for non-Celiac patients).

I eat toast about four to five mornings a week. It’s my favorite breakfast. I’ve been eating toast since I was a kid. I used to fold it in half and dip it into coffee so I could eat it quickly and not miss the bus (yes I began my love affair with coffee at about age 10).

Bread is mostly carbohydrate (about 15 grams per slice), and yes, research shows that it’s ideal to consume about 15-20 grams of protein with each meal. As we age it’s even more important to include protein to maintain our lean body mass (i.e. muscle). But I don’t like eating protein every morning. And I’m not a smoothie person. I like toast.

Two slices provides about 5 grams of protein and I get about 2 grams from the cream I put in my 2-3 cups of coffee. So I sometimes add a scoop protein supplement to one of my mugs of coffee, adding another 11 grams of protein to my morning. That’s 18 grams of protein for breakfast. Good enough.

Your Holiday Guide to Good Eating

  • Your diet does not have to abide by every rule you read.
  • Food should nourish you (yes it’s okay to get comfort from food too) and you should enjoy what you eat, while striving to make healthier choices.
  • Add variety to your diet by trying new vegetables and grains once in a while.
  • Don’t be ashamed to eat toast for breakfast. Yes oatmeal is good too. And I’m a fan of dry cereal, eggs, bacon and sausage (not to mention good pastry) – I just don’t eat those foods every week.
  • Moderation means eating just 2 slices of bacon, 2 sausage links, or one pastry.
  • You will eat more cookies than usual this month. It’s okay. Make them good ones.

Happy Holidays!