If you’re like a lot of other health-conscious people, there’s a part of you that dreads the food situation during the holidays. You’re so careful about what you eat through most of the year, and then along comes this season that revolves heavily—no pun intended—around big meals and indulgent desserts. And eating smart during the holiday season can seem like a lost cause.
But it’s entirely possible to enjoy the food and the meals with your loved ones while keeping things healthy. Sure, it requires some will power, but making the smart, healthy choices always does. There will probably be more temptations than usual, so keep your resolve strong and go into the end of the year with these tips for eating smart during the holiday season at the forefront of your mind.
Healthy Eating During the Holidays
- Allow yourself some indulgence. Straying from your strict food regimen a little during the holidays isn’t going to undo all your hard work. Besides, life shouldn’t be all deprivation all the time. Letting yourself “cheat” a bit once in a while makes it easier to stay mentally strong the rest of the time.
- Offset the less healthy meals with healthier ones. So, you’re going to have a few big dinners in the near future? Stick to small, nutrient-dense breakfasts and lunches on those days. And you can even extend that out to the dinners before and after your celebratory meals if it makes you feel better about things. Budget your calories for when you really want to spend them!
- Have a few small, healthy snacks the day of a big dinner. A handful of nuts, some fruit salad, a few whole grain crackers topped with cheese… these sort of satisfying snacks can send you into the meal with less of an appetite so you’re less likely to overeat.
- Substitute healthier ingredients and cooking methods. The internet abounds with recipes for healthier alternatives to traditional holiday foods. You can easily use less butter, swap in whole grains for refined grains, bake things instead of frying them, and so on.
- Favor homemade foods. When the food’s homemade, you can make it healthier as mentioned above. But it also means you’ll be eating less store-bought foods, which are likely to be heavily processed, packed with sodium or sugar, and just generally less healthy than the food you prepare yourself.
- Pile your plate with veggies. Want to enjoy a heaping plate of food at a big holiday dinner? Go ahead. But give a lot of space on your plate to the vegetable side dishes. They’re full of fiber and filling, and much lower in calories than everything else on the table.
- Don’t forget portion control. Sure, have some of everything that’s being served. But you only need a small quantity of each dish. Portion control for moderation is the key to being able to eat all the foods you want.
- Eat slowly and mindfully. This is a healthy eating habit you’ve hopefully already mastered. But remember to apply it to eating smart during the holiday season, when you’ll probably be more excited and distracted at meals. Take your time, chew thoroughly, pay attention to the food, and savor the taste. You’ll enjoy the meal more, but you’ll also give your body time to recognize its satiety before you overeat.
- Wait 5 or 10 minutes before taking seconds. Like eating slowly, this is a good way to give yourself time to register that you’re not hungry anymore. Giving yourself these few extra minutes between helpings can keep your consumption way down while still letting you feel totally satisfied.
- Drink plenty of water. This will help you feel full quicker, and maybe even keep you from drinking as much eggnog or alcohol. And it’ll help prevent a hangover if you do drink too much alcohol.
- Enjoy dessert in moderation. Yes, go ahead and have a piece of that pie. Just stick to a small piece, and maybe don’t put a pile of whipped cream or ice cream on top. And let one piece be enough. Again, it’s all about portion control.
- Take a walk after big meals. It’s always good to move around, and you might be ready for some peace and quiet afterwards. But also, walking helps with digestion.
- Socialize away from the food and drinks. If you’re at a holiday party, don’t stand around chatting right next to the food and beverages. You’re much more likely to keep having more if it’s within easy reach.
- Exercise during the holiday season. Lots of people exercise less during the holidays. You might be a little more pressed for time than usual, your daily routine might be disrupted, you might be away from your gym and home equipment… there are many reasons, but don’t turn them into excuses. You don’t need equipment when you can go for a run, do push-ups and squats, etc. You might have to find different ways to exercise, but just do it!