The holidays are a magical time of the year. However, the holidays also come with their fair share of stressors, including family commitments, travel, budgeting for gifts, and more. Additionally, food is always in abundance, which can add more temptation and stress to your already-full plate. From your work party to the neighborhood social or your family’s holiday feast, rich and delicious foods are typically easier to come by for weeks on end. Most people go into the holiday season expecting to pack on a few pounds, and many deal with guilt and a great deal of regret after the season has passed.
To avoid an unhealthy downward spiral, we recommend going into the holidays with a healthy food plan. Here are some healthy holiday tips to consider for setting yourself up for success.
Acknowledge the Temptation
There’s no benefit in telling yourself that you won’t struggle with eating healthy during the holidays. Denial is not an effective solution. Instead, acknowledge the temptation that you’re likely to face and start wrapping your mind around some effective strategies to improve how you feel at the end of a big party or at the end of the holiday season. Recognize it for what it is—temptation—and focus on how best to handle it in the midst of the most tempting moments, and you’ll likely be well on your way to a guilt-free but enjoyable, healthy holiday.
Offer to Bring a Dish
If you get invited to a party, offer to bring a dish and then make it a healthy one. That way, even if everything else being served isn’t nutritious and supporting your healthy holiday eating goals, you know you’ll have at least one dish that is better for you.
Minimize Alcohol Consumption
The holidays are the most common time of year for people to justify drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, but that doesn’t need to be the case. If you want to have a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail, you can. In support of your health goals, know that alcohol can still be enjoyed in moderation. Keep in mind that alcohol delivers empty calories that you don’t need, and can diminish your inhibitions and clear thinking, leading to you to potentially make unhealthy choices when it comes to your diet. Also, if you choose to drink alcohol, be sure to alternate with drinking water, as alcohol is dehydrating!
Don’t Be Unrealistic – Aim for Balance
There’s no use in telling yourself that you’re only going to eat one cookie during the entire month of December. By thinking that way, you’re setting yourself up for failure before the festivities have even begun. Allow yourself to eat the things you want to eat but do so in moderation. If you want to try multiple desserts on the table, you can. Try taking just a small piece of each. Be mindful that you’re not only eating portions of the sweets—try the healthier foods, too! You should aim for a balanced diet as much as possible when striving for healthy holiday eating, and just accept that some additional sweets will be included in what you’re eating.
Start with Veggies
Peruse the food table at parties before you start piling food on your plate. When you’re ready to eat and start filling up your dish, start with the veggies. Allow them to take up at least half the plate, and then add smaller portions of other foods. You can also start eating your vegetables first. Vegetables will help you get full faster and will help you get more nutrients, meaning you may not be hungry enough for that extra slice of pie or that extra serving of cheesy potatoes.
TrueCare’s VP of Nutrition and Registered Dietitian, Mary Sammer, advises, “if you know the party will be only appetizers or snacks, which tend to be higher in calories and fat, consider eating a small meal before you go. Don’t arrive on an empty stomach.”
Get the whole family involved in eating healthy during the holidays. Check out our healthy snacks for kids.
Savor Each Bite
Mindfulness plays a huge role in healthy eating. It’s not just about making good food choices and ensuring those healthy foods get on your plate–it’s also about truly savoring each bite of those delicious, rich foods you’ve been craving since the last time you ate them. Close your eyes when you take a bite of pie or eat smaller bites of that brownie to ensure you get all the satisfaction from consuming it. At the same time, try to avoid mindless eating, such as when you’re standing near the food table talking and munching on different foods for far too long. Be conscious of what you’re eating, how it tastes, and how it makes you feel.
Sammer adds, “Attend parties with a predetermined mindset. If you arrive with a mindset to enjoy a few food items that you really love, you will be able to ignore the temptation of all the other options. Also, use your power to make your own choices about what you eat or don’t eat, don’t let others choose for you.”
Don’t Let a Slip-Up Sideline You
Let’s say you’re going strong with making good food choices for the first few holiday parties, and then that work party just knocks you back a notch. There are literally zero vegetables at this party, so you fill up with homemade macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, buttery rolls, and all the cake and cookies you can find. You know you slipped up and made some bad choices, and you feel really guilty about it. Acknowledge it for what it is—a onetime slip-up. Then, mentally hit your refresh button and move on with a renewed sense of motivation. Don’t just throw up your arms and decide that since you didn’t do it perfectly, you just aren’t going to do it at all anymore. One meal doesn’t define your entire diet, so simply get back on track at the next meal and resolve to make healthy choices moving forward.
Don’t Skip Meals
A lot of people choose this tactic to try to “save calories,” but it often leads to excessive overeating and is a bad habit that should be avoided. It is better for your overall health to eat normal-sized meals leading up to a big holiday dinner and just eat in moderation at that special occasion dinner. It’s also possible that skipping meals will make you feel sick and leave you less hungry than if you had just eaten normally. Aim to eat a well-balanced diet throughout the day, even on days with big get-togethers, and that will help you continue to make good choices towards your healthy holiday eating plan.
Healthy eating is about far more than just eating—it’s also about the choices you make to maintain your overall wellness. Staying active during the holiday season is a great way to hold yourself accountable for making healthy choices and minimizing poor food choices. Not only will it help you with digestion and absorption of key nutrients, but it will also keep you burning calories and getting some fresh air. Something as simple as a post-dinner walk will help you substantially. Make it a family affair to enjoy staying active even more, maybe by going ice skating, completing outdoor chores, or just walking through the neighborhood together.
Get Enough Sleep
A lack of sleep not only impacts your health, but it can also lead to making poor food choices. Sleep-deprived individuals often have harder-to-control blood sugar, meaning you won’t feel great and you’ll be looking for snacks far more often than you should be. Exhaustion also leads to generally worse decisions, including poor food choices. It’s easy to stay up late when family is around and everyone is enjoying each other’s company, but you need to prioritize sleep even during the holidays so you have a clear mind and make the best healthy eating choices all season long.
Staying active and getting good sleep is also good for hearth health too!
Focus On What’s Truly Important
It can be easy to get caught up in and distracted by all the stressors and temptations that come around this time of year. Holiday nutrition is about trying your best to keep some perspective and remember that at the end of the day, it’s not about gobbling down all the desserts or making yourself feel guilty over that one cookie. It’s about spending time doing the things that bring you joy, embracing the spirit of the season, and valuing healthy holiday eating.
If you have questions or concerns about your weight, your diet, or your overall health, TrueCare can help. We have several clinic locations across the North San Diego and Riverside counties and can assist you in meeting a variety of your health care goals. If you live in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, San Marcos, Ramona, or Perris, contact us today.
DISCLAIMER: THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this website.