Food, festivity and tradition can often join forces to create challenges to eating healthfully and moderately while making merry. Even the most disciplined people struggle with finding balance at the holiday season. But a little mindfulness and planning can help you navigate some common holiday food obstacles. Here are some healthy holiday eating tips to help you strike a healthy balance this year.
1. Focus on family, friends and fun… not food.
Holidays are often an occasion to connect and enjoy the company of family and friends that we don’t get to see at other times. Take advantage of the time you have together and consider encouraging a new tradition that is not associated with food: ice skating, family games, decorating.
2. Eat regularly; don’t skip meals.
Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast and lunch. Consider eating a protein-rich snack such as a handful of almonds or a small Greek yogurt before attending a party. Skipping meals in order to “save up calories” to splurge on party food is a BAD idea because it virtually guarantees that you will be starving by the time you arrive. It is difficult to show restraint when you are starving!
3. Make healthy buffet choices.
Opt for whole foods when possible: whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins. Go easy on gravies, sauces, dips and sugary desserts. Remember you are not obligated to sample everything on the buffet.
4. Consider bringing a dish to the party.
It is the season of giving, right? As a vegetarian, I often bring food to social gatherings. It allows me to have food that I am certain will meet my dietary preferences but it can also serve as an introduction to meatless foods for others. I have received thanks from hosts who said it removed pressure from them to find and prepare a recipe and ingredients they are unfamiliar with.
5. Be a mindful eater.
Ask yourself if you are eating because you are hungry? Are you splurging on a food that you love? Or are you allowing social and other distractions to take the focus away from what you eat? Slow down, pay attention and savor your food. If you feel pressure to eat more than you want, politely say “no thank you” and be done with it. Don’t eat just because the food is available or someone is urging you to partake.
6. Save your splurges for the foods you really love!
Enjoy your special foods like the treat that they are… SAVOR them!! But serve yourself in moderation. If there is more than one special food on the buffet, consider bite size servings of several treats.
7. Slow down.
Eating slowly prevents you from over-eating. It takes the brain 15 or 20 minutes to recognize that the stomach is full, so eating slowly allows your brain to keep up with your stomach. Eating slowly is also good for digestion. The more chewing work you do, the less strain on your gut.
8. Rethink your drink.
Alcoholic beverages, especially festive holiday beverages like eggnog can be loaded with empty calories. If you will be imbibing, consider alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to pace yourself and to stay hydrated.
9. Stock the freezer with healthy meals.
During the holidays, the usually busy schedule seems to get even busier! To ensure that you are not left with the drive thru as the best option for a quick meal, stock the freezer with healthy options. Plan on an easy to prepare freezer meal and enjoy a night in, perhaps wrapping gifts!
10. Make time for exercise.
Yes, you are busy. But making time for exercise is so beneficial! Even a brisk 15-minute power walk will clear your mind and energize your body while burning off calories.
Eat better, feel better!
Let me know if you found this list of tips helpful, and if you have any of your own ideas for healthy holiday eating tips!