When it comes to eating healthy, the holiday season can seem like a minefield full of alluring yet indulgent calorie pitfalls. It’s easy to find yourself snacking on more holiday treats than planned, grabbing an extra helping of pumpkin pie, or topping off your hot coco with extra whip. How in the world are you supposed to stay on track with your health and fitness goals with so many temptations!
Not to worry, you can still enjoy the holiday traditions and stay on track with your fitness goals. That starts by reading the 10 powerful healthy holiday eating tips below.
As you read these tips to eat healthy during the holidays, choose the tips that work best for you. You might also find that some holiday health tips work better than others in certain situations. Take a deep breath. You can do this with the help of these healthy food tips for the holidays.
Tip #1. Be Realistic About What’s Possible During the Holidays
Are you going to be able to maintain perfect eating habits during the holidays? Not likely, unless you want to bring a container of your own food to Thanksgiving dinner and holiday potlucks. It’s better to be realistic than restrictive, and ultimately giving up.
You will likely eat more calories over the holiday season. (Just a note that the average Thanksgiving meal is over 3,000 calories.) You may see a little backsliding in your health goals. That’s okay as long as you are prepared. Your holiday nutrition goal can be to manage the backsliding, so it doesn’t become a nutritional free fall. The holidays are typically not the best time to start a new diet or to expect a huge amount of progress in your health goals.
Tip #2. Practice Mindful Eating
With so many delectable treats on display during family get-togethers, holiday parties, and Friendsgivings, it’s easy to load up your plate and get to work. Instead, try practicing mindful eating. In a 2017 paper dedicated to the topic, author Joseph B. Nelson describes mindful eating as, “paying attention to our food, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgment.”
While mindful eating is not specifically designed to lower calorie consumption, it often has that effect. Eating mindfully means eating with intention and appreciating every mouthful of food. This, in turn, results in eating more slowly, which can lead to less overall consumption and greater satisfaction with the meal. Heck, why not practice mindful eating throughout the entire year?
Tip #3. Bring a Healthy Dish to the Potluck
Many holiday parties and family meals are potluck style. You can’t help it if Aunt Rita brings her to-die-for cheesecake or if cousin Martin makes his insanely good cheese dip, but you can control what you bring. Choose a healthy holiday recipe and at least you’ll have one healthy option to balance out the more delicious selections on your plate. If you happen to be the event host, try one of these 15 quick and healthy holiday dinner ideas.
Tip #4. Drink Water
It’s so easy to drink excess calories without noticing it, especially when the wine and beer come out or when your host makes some tasty holiday-inspired drinks. Consider drinking a glass of water before attending a big meal, which will help you feel fuller.
Additionally, a super simple holiday health tip is to follow every alcoholic or high-calorie drink with a glass of water. Not only will you drink fewer calories over the course of the event and stay hydrated, but you might also avoid a hangover the next morning.
Tip #5. Wait Before Going in for Seconds
Yes, that final turkey drumstick is calling your name, but before you load up your plate for seconds, just wait. It takes your stomach a while to process all the food you’ve swallowed (especially if you ate quickly) and to relay that information to your brain.
Generally, it takes around 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re feeling full. So, give your brain time to catch up to what’s happening in your stomach. Instead of grabbing seconds, have a chat with friends and family around the table. The holidays are about spending time with those you love anyways!
Tip #6. Choose Healthier Ingredients for Your Dishes
Believe it or not, you don’t actually need to add five tablespoons of butter to those mashed potatoes to make them irresistible. Instead, switch out some of the butter for garlic and tasty herbs.
In fact, for healthy holiday meals, you can cut the calorie content of many of your favorite dishes without taking away their scrumptious taste with a few clever substitutions. For example, try Greek yogurt instead of sour cream; skim milk instead of heavy cream; and steaming veggies instead of frying them. These are just a few of the many switches you can make that nobody will notice but will help avoid that post-feast crash.
Tip #7. Focus on Healthy Snacking
You’ll be surrounded by delightful sweets during the holiday season that might tempt to torpedo your holiday nutrition goals. This is when cookies start appearing in the breakroom or when neighbors drop off homemade desserts.
If you don’t plan your snacks in advance, it’ll be easy to grab whatever sweet is available. Instead, pack your snacks before going to work or school or leaving the house. Find snacks that are healthy that you still enjoy. Try vegetables with a little peanut butter, pieces of fruit, or a small handful of mixed nuts. Snacks that contain fiber and/or healthy fats will help you feel full for longer.
Tip #8. Don’t Skip Meals
It may seem like a healthy holiday idea to skip breakfast and maybe lunch, too if you know you’re going to be attending a huge holiday meal for dinner. Or, alternatively, you may try to cut your calories in half today if you ate too much the day before.
Skipping meals and starving yourself is not the way to deal with holiday overeating. By starving yourself until Thanksgiving, you’ll likely overindulge even more, not to mention that you’ll probably be a grinch until the food arrives. By eating your normally scheduled meals, you’ll be less likely to overdo it during big holiday meals.
Tip #9. Don’t Take Home the Desserts
After many holiday parties or potluck, the host is eager to send guests home with doggy bags filled with cookies, pies, cakes, and more. As delicious as these treats were, resist the temptation to pack them into your car and take them home. After all, it’s much easier not to eat unhealthy food if it isn’t readily available. Even if you think you’re bringing home that leftover pumpkin pie “for the kids,” more than likely, those pie slices will end up on your plate after a stressful day.
Tip #10. Don’t Get Down on Yourself
Even with all the healthy holiday eating tips in this article, it’s still easy to overindulge during the holiday season. Don’t beat yourself up about it if your holiday nutrition is less than ideal. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that it’s difficult for anyone to maintain a healthy holiday eating plan.
With travel, family meals, holiday parties, and more, it’s a big challenge to maintain a consistent eating schedule. Just remember that a few weeks of splurging isn’t the end of the world. Everyday is a new day to try again, and you can kick off a healthy eating plan at the beginning of the new year. Also, one of the best holiday health tips is to maintain a consistent exercise routine. (Take a look at these 10 useful tips for holiday workouts.) Even if you’re eating extra calories over the holidays, you can always burn some of them away with a good workout.
Enjoy the Holiday Season
Perhaps the best holiday health tip is to enjoy yourself during the holiday season. If there’s any time to splurge, it’s now. Just try to limit your splurges to those times that mean the most. Make amazing memories with your family and friends. When you can, follow these tips to eat healthy during the holidays to help manage the fallout. Also, stick with your gym routine as best you can. If you’re traveling or your schedule is hectic, try at-home workouts over the holidays. Here are even more tips to stay healthy during the holidays.
Then, when the new year comes around, recommit to your goals or create new health and fitness goals. If you want to join a friendly and supportive gym that can help you balance out your holiday eating, search for an EōS Fitness near you and try a Complimentary 7-Day Free Pass.