Danielle Gainer has a strong passion and professional background for helping people overcome chronic disease, obesity, depression and unhealthy habits through healthy lifestyle change. She holds a bachelor’s in wellness from Oakland University and various certifications.

What are challenges presented by holidays when it comes to nutrition?
The biggest nutritional challenge during the holiday season is the temptation to overindulge in rich and sweet foods. The holidays present many opportunities to do so through traditional get-togethers with family, friends and even work.

What can folks do to be mindful of balance? What is most effective tool?
Balance and moderation are the keys to navigating the holiday season. No one should deprive themselves of the traditions they love. However, it’s important not to completely neglect your health either. I like the 80/20 rule as a general guideline.
The 80/20 rule means to strive to eat for health and wellbeing 80 percent of the time, and allow yourself to give into those unhealthier cravings 20 percent of the time. Avoid low blood sugar crashes and unhealthy cravings by staying full on small nutritional meals every two to three hours. This is especially helpful when attending a gathering or event that you know will be full of tempting goodies. It may require some prep time, but the benefit far outweighs the effort.
Another tip is to slow down when eating and be more mindful. Take time to really enjoy the company of loved ones around you, and the food. Check in with yourself one-fourth way through your meal. Are you full? If so, then stop! No one enjoys that uncomfortable feeling after overeating. It also helps to stay hydrated with water and keep physically active throughout the holidays.

What guide can you lend
to proper portion sizes?
There is a slew of free apps out there that help track calories and portion size. An easy method would be to use your hands to control portions.
Every meal should try to be a balance of protein, whole wheat grains and vegetables. Your protein source should not be larger than the size of your palm, grains shouldn’t be larger than two palms full and try to have at least an additional two palms full of fruits and/or vegetables in your meals. Keep snacks at one handful in between meals.
You can also use smaller plates and bowls, and avoid second helpings of food. Watch out for high caloric beverages like fancy coffees and alcohol.
Consider your daily physical activity. We can become rather sedentary over the holidays and it might be surprising to realize how little energy in — food — is needed for the amount of energy out — exercise — we are doing on a daily basis.

Can one big dinner ruin your diet?
One of the biggest threats to maintaining our lifestyle goals is the “all or nothing” mindset that many people today tend to embody. If you have one bad meal, day, week or even month it’s important to not let that completely derail your healthy long-term goals.
Wellness is more than a fad diet or number on a scale — it’s a life-long journey.  Everyone will fall off track at one point throughout life and the most important thing is to get back on that horse!