Maintaining healthy eating habits during the holiday season can be challenging. The abundance of tempting treats and holiday gatherings can make it easy to make poor eating choices and also over-eat.
However, the holidays are a time for celebration, and food is undoubtedly a central part of that celebration. Here are seven habits I have learned over the years to savor the season’s flavors without over-indulgence.
Sequence your feast
Start all big meals with a first course of salad, fruits, or veggies. This can be followed by more richer/traditional foods that may be a bit more unhealthy. This type of ‘meal sequencing‘ is known to boost metabolism, reduce blood sugar spikes, and help you feel full. Arrange the fruits and veggies in holiday-themed platters to make it more fun and look the part!
Cheat occasionally, but do not have a cheat day.
If you indulge in one treat or unhealthy choice, do not make the entire day a ‘cheat day.’ Cheat days may lead to ‘cheat weeks’ and then become the excuse for a ‘Cheat whole holiday season!’ Part of healthy holiday eating habits is keeping from over-indulging.
Before heading to a holiday party, eat a small, nutritious snack to curb hunger. This can prevent overeating when faced with a spread of tempting treats.
As a ‘see food, grab food’ type of person, I tend to overeat in social situations. The habit of mindfulness has really helped me overcome this habit. First, I use my senses to take in the sights and smells of the food. Then, I consciously plan what I will serve myself (in small portions).
I take the time to taste and savor each bite and each type of food. I put my fork down between bites and engage in conversation. When I go for a second serving, I take another small portion, being mindful of how full I feel. This practice can be applied to alcohol consumption as well. If you must drink, drink mindfully. Use mindful eating as a part of your healthy holiday eating habits
Stay hydrated, especially when indulging in salty or sugary treats. Water can help curb excessive snacking and keep you feeling refreshed.
Eat together, eat well
Healthy holiday eating habits can be contagious. Being mindful of what you put on your plate can influence those around you, especially children. By choosing wholesome options, you’re setting a positive example for your kids, friends, and family. Share your knowledge about the benefits of a balanced diet, and consider cooking a nutritious dish to bring to gatherings.
Balance your holiday meals with physical activity. A brisk walk, a dance session, or a family game can help burn off those extra calories and boost your mood. In my house, we do a ‘Turkey Burn’ bike ride before the Thanksgiving Meal and a ‘Zany Zumba’ family-style before the Christmas Meal.
As you can see, having healthy holiday eating habits is as much about ‘how’ you eat as it is about ‘what’ you eat. Eating mindfully, making informed choices, and staying active can help us savor the festivities without compromising our health. This way, you can bring in the new year light-hearted and light (i.e., without too many added pounds over the holidays)!
Here is to a healthy, happy holiday season!