If you’re are worried about staying healthy this holiday season, and want to get through the Christmas season without overeating, I’ve got seven strategies that will help you reach your goals.
The holiday season offers many fun activities: getting together with friends and family, having holiday traditions and Christmas food.
We make food, we give it to others, and we have it at every gathering. It is a central part of the holiday season. So, how do we enjoy the holidays while also enjoying the food that accompanies the season?
For most of us there are large meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas (or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa) . We know they’re coming, we plan, shop and prepare for days. Those meals are a day of eating, from appetizers, to the main meal and the assortment of desserts after.
For most of us these days are not going to be the tipping point of our normal diet. We may not feel great, having overeaten all day but we can still get back to our goals after the turkey coma has worn off.
What can have a lasting impact is the high calorie treats that surround us during the holiday season; the holiday parties, the treats neighbors give us, the treats we bake ourselves, the candy that seems to be everywhere. So, how do we make it through two months without losing sight of our goals?
First, remember that keeping a goal can look different to each person. I find that for myself I need to be realistic in setting goals. My goal around the holidays may look a little different, because I want to enjoy the good food that comes along with the season.
But for me there is a difference between enjoying the food and overeating the goodies for two months. Holiday cookies are great, so enjoy them and nourish your body with other foods too.
The 7 Diet Tips for Eating Healthy during the Holidays
1) Start with balanced, nourishing Meals
As the weather changes, we change our diet, we want soups and other cozy warm meals. These meals are a great opportunity to include whole grains, vegetables, and proteins.
Having healthy soup with chicken, barley and vegetables such as carrots and kale will provide good nutrients and help you manage hunger.
When we eat a balanced meal it leaves us feeling satisfied and less likely to overindulge on other goodies. Eating a balanced meal before going to an event where you know there will be goodies is helpful. If I know there is going to be lots of baked goods, bread and cheese I try to have a meal with more protein. (see my post on my favorite protein foods)
I also make sure to include fruit and vegetables to make the overall food I eat between both the meal and party balanced.
2) Choose winter drinks wisely
Staying hydrated is important but beverages often add a lot of extra sugar. Winter drinks such as hot cocoa or eggnog are delicious, but contain lots of sugar, which adds up over time.
Some other cozy drink ideas with less sugar are hot water with lemon and ginger, holiday flavored teas, and golden milk, a mixture of turmeric, other spices and coconut milk. Having a hot cup of tea is great to start your day when it’s cold.
Beverages at parties, like eggnog and other cocktails are usually high in fat and sugar. Have a smaller portion of the drink and sip on it slowly, mix up what you drink with some water, sparkling water or lemon water. (check out the delicious oreo protein shake here)
3) Bake in small batches
Baking goodies around the holidays is fun to do with our family and friends, but we don’t always have to make double batches, or even single batches. If you want to decorate the classic sugar cookies, make a small batch or even a ½ batch. (or make these sugar free sugar cookies here, or single serving peanut butter cookie here) You still get the experience, with less leftover cookies to snack on.
4) Healthy Food Gift Ideas for Giving
Some of us may have the tradition of baking Christmas goodies to give to friends. If you’re like me, you’ll have to sample some (or a lot) and snack on leftovers, which can add up.
Mix up what you give to people. Make a batch of seasoned mixed nuts, homemade jam, granola, bread, or a healthy dip.
Make something they can use later, a dressing, seasoning blend or chai mix.
Seasonal fruit is a fun way to mix things up if you don’t want to make anything. Persimmons, pomegranates, tangerines or even apples with cheese and nice olives are great options. I find that people enjoy a variety of food gifts, instead of another plate of cookies.
This might not work for every situation, but I am a fan of regifting/reusing. If someone has given you goodies, take them to a party you need to bring something to, or set it out at your own party. If someone asks, you can say they looked so good I wanted to share.
5) Eat what you like
We know our favorite holiday treats, and we know the treats we don’t like (fruitcake). If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. You don’t have to try every treat offered. I like to think about how I enjoy a delicious baked good in a bakery, savoring each bite. This applies to holiday treats, they are to be savored, they are not meant to be eaten like a meal.
6) Portions Matter
This applies to everything, if you’re at a party and there are lots of appetizers that you want to try, then do just that, try them. You don’t need to load up your plate.
Use your plate/napkin as a guide for how much to serve for your first serving. I try to dish up only those things I really want to try, and only dish up a taste. If you don’t like something, don’t eat the rest, if you like it, have a little more.
I also like to pause before dishing up a second plate to let my fullness cues catch up before eating more. This also goes for large dinners. Your plate can look like a normal meal, it doesn’t have to be piled high to enjoy it.
Dish up a taste of each item you want to try. If you only want half a roll, no one will mind. If you feel awkward not eating more after you’re done while other people are eating, keep a low calorie beverage in hand to sip from.
7) Choose My Holiday Plate
Choose My Plate is all about eating a balance of food groups. We know some staples of parties and large dinners are meat: turkey, ham, grains: rolls, crackers, stuffing, some vegetables, mashed potatoes, yams, and green bean casserole.
Normally there is little fruit and cheese is the main dairy item. If you are helping prepare a meal or bringing something for a spread at a party, bring an item to help balance the plate. Most vegetable dishes have lots of butter added. Some alternatives are roasted yams or potatoes, steamed broccoli, a lighter version of green beans, or even a salad. (here’s some salad recipes to try)
Adding fruit as an appetizer or even adding pears and pomegranate seeds to a salad is a great option. You can add dairy by bringing a yogurt dip, or adding milk in mashed potatoes instead of cream. When dishing up, I like to start with the vegetables, add my protein and add my other groups last. I find this helps me balance my plate without overeating.
The holiday season can be busy at times, taking time to slow down and gathering with friends and family can help us reach our health goals. Maybe it’s starting a non food tradition or enjoying the company more than the food at gatherings. We don’t have to overeat to enjoy the holiday season.
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