The holidays can be a stressful time for those who have health and nutrition goals they want to meet, or who feel they “lose control” around all the exciting and delicious holiday foods. Luckily, it is possible to enjoy all the flavors of the holidays without restricting or missing out! Here are our top 8 tips for navigating the holidays and keeping health at the forefront!
Commit to Weight Maintenance, Not Loss
Dieting during the holidays just doesn’t make sense. The average American gains only one pound over the holiday season, despite most people’s fears of gaining much more than that. Rather than beginning that shiny new fad diet this holiday season, put your focus towards maintaining the weight you’re currently at. That way, you’ll feel less defeated and like you’ve “failed” should you gain a little bit of weight at the end of the season.
Eat Before the Holiday Party
Of course, we still want you to eat your aunt’s prize-winning pie, or taste your coworker’s casserole, so don’t eat so much that you’re completely full by the time you arrive at holiday parties and events. Rather, have a snack that features a protein or fat with a complex carbohydrate at least an hour before parties. You won’t arrive starving and ready to attack the snack table; instead, you’ll be prepared to only eat what you want and what sounds good, without overdoing it.
Limit or Avoid Alcohol
If you choose to have alcohol at holiday events, drink it with food. Have a glass of water between drinks, and try to stick to lower calorie drinks and cocktails, as well as lower sugar mixes. Alcohol calories can add up quickly without providing any nutrients, and may be a detriment to your nutrition goals.
Make Half Your Plate Vegetables and Fruit
Add as many vegetable options to your plate as you can, making about half of your plate vegetables or fruit. This way, you can be sure you’re getting in all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs.
Do Not Skip Meals to “Make Up” for Larger Ones
To some it may seem counter-intuitive, but you may be doing yourself more harm than good by eating less before or after holiday meals. Eat a breakfast that is high in protein the day of a big holiday meal or party to help keep you satisfied until then. And if you get hungry before your feast, have a snack! You’ll be less likely to overeat later if you keep your body fed. And remember, your body still needs energy and nutrition the day following a holiday feast.
Be Picky without Restricting
Survey all the options available before building your plate of food. See something you can make or eat any time of year? Consider passing on it to make room for special dishes and desserts that only come around once a year. And remember, depriving yourself of the more indulgent foods in the name of “health” usually leads to obsessing over the food, then binging on it. You’ll do yourself more favors by just eating the small slice of pie now, rather than gorging on it in secret later in the night.
Practice Mindful Eating During Holiday Meals
Mindful eating includes practices such as eating when you are hungry, eating more slowly, savoring the food, and paying attention to how food smells, tastes, and looks throughout the meal. Becoming more in-tune with your body’s signals and cues while you’re eating may help you avoid overeating to the point of being uncomfortable, too.
Balance Holiday Snacks and Treats
Gingerbread, peppermint and peppermint mocha, pumpkin-spiced everything… a lot of fun and exciting flavors are only available during the holidays, and it’s hard to not feel a sense of urgency to eat it all right now, while you can. Keep your favorite holiday flavors in the house and pick a treat or two to enjoy every day, working them into your normal eating pattern. Spreading your seasonal haul out throughout the weeks will help you feel more in control around them, and reduce the chances that you binge. And remember – if you really want holiday flavors throughout the year, you can probably find a way to get your hands on them, anyway.
While these tips will help you make sure you’re enjoying the holidays in the healthiest and most balanced way, the most important takeaway is to remember that all foods fit into a balanced diet. You do not need to deprive yourself of your favorite holiday dishes in an attempt to lose weight or avoid weight gain. Doing so will only leave you unhappy, unsatisfied, and more likely to binge on those foods later. One holiday meal and one holiday season will not derail your nutrition or health, and we encourage you to take advantage of friends, family, and good food this holiday season!
Nourished Routes aims to enrich your lifestyle with useful experience and education. When it comes to providing nutrition therapy, we believe in a whole foods approach, 100% transparency with our clients, and applying evidenced-based information. Our Registered Dietitians create individualized nutrition and activity plans that are personalized to your lifestyle and needs. Some of our nutrition services include: nutrition counseling, virtual workshops, cooking classes, and more! Schedule your free kickoff call with us today!