The holiday season is something we all look forward to, but something we all dread too. Everyone loves the festive activities, but many people are afraid of holiday parties because of the abundance of food and treats. I’ll be the first to admit that I always feel guilty over my holiday binges, or that I get anxious about making health-conscious decisions with all of the tempting foods around. The holidays are about so much more than food, but to help you (and myself) feel on top of our wellness goals, I’ve crafted a list of tips to help you have your healthiest holiday season! Here are ten tips to keeping your health in check over the holidays:
1. Fill your plate with veggies first! I know the first thing we all want to do is load up our plate with turkey and stuffing, but by the time we get to the veggies, there’s hardly any room left! Pile on the green beans, salad, and sweet potatoes before grabbing the turkey, stuffing, and rolls! You’ll still be able to enjoy the traditional items, while maintaining balance!
2. Only eat the foods you really love. I know, it’s so tempting to overeat when you’re surrounded by tons of food. You want to try everything! But it’s okay to be picky! If you know you like grandma’s mac n cheese, but you’re not a fan of your aunt’s sweet potato casserole, save room for the mac n cheese and don’t get the casserole! You don’t need to fill your plate just because everyone else is! And if you put something on your plate that isn’t absolutely delicious, don’t feel like you need to eat it just because it’s there.
3. Eat slowly. The quicker you inhale your meal, the more likely you are to go back for seconds. Engage in conversation while you’re eating to keep your pace slow, chew your food thoroughly, and take sips of water between each bite. You’ll feel fuller quicker, which will keep you from piling a second helping of everything on your plate.
4. Start off the day with a balanced breakfast. If your holidays are like mine, the festivities don’t usually start until the evening. Be sure to consume a well-balanced, wholesome breakfast to fuel you for a day full of activities, and to kickstart your day in a healthy way! Stock up on healthy carbs, quality protein, and good fats! Choosing micronutrient dense foods is even better!
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drinking water is stressed so much, that you would think it’s the universal cure for everything. By drinking plenty of water, you’re not only replenishing your body with fluids and flushing the excess sodium from your system, but you’ll also feel fuller quicker, which will keep you from binging! Also, if you plan on drinking alcohol, punch, eggnog, or other holiday drinks, drink a glass or two of water in between to help keep hydrated, and to help you limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages!
6. Bring a healthy side dish or dessert. If you’re not the host, and your holiday is potluck style, bring a healthy holiday side to share! And if your holiday isn’t potluck style – offer to bring something or to help cook! You can “healthify” a traditional favorite like green bean casserole, or bring something totally new and delicious, like a quinoa salad! Not only will you ensure that you have a more nutritious option, but you may even help show your loved ones that healthy food is tasty!
7. Workout before you start preparing for the day. Whether you’re the host, or you just plan on rolling up to the party, I promise you have time for a workout. All you need is 30 minutes! Wake up a bit earlier and go for a walk or a run, do a quick workout video on YouTube, practice a yoga flow – starting your day off with a workout is a good way to continue working toward your fitness goals, but also a great way to get your endorphins flowing before the craziness begins!
8. Don’t starve yourself before the party. By not eating, you’re setting yourself up for “failure”. Your stomach will be growling, causing you to make a beeline for the appetizers or the goodie table. Make sure to nourish yourself before heading over to the party, to help you to make reasonable choices! Now, I’m not suggesting that you chow down on a five course meal before heading over to a party, but at least eat a nutritious snack before the festivities begin! I find that snacks with fiber and good fats keep me fuller, longer!
9. Find an accountability partner. Do you have a family member or friend who is also striving to make healthier decisions daily? Maybe your sister, dad, or aunt? Make a game plan with them! Help each other stay balanced throughout the festivities, whether that’s filling your plates together, or doing an activity together to keep yourselves from visiting the cookie table repeatedly. Having someone to support you around all of the tempting foods is a great way to stay focused, and even to bond with someone even more!
10. Don’t bring unneeded leftovers home. Enjoy the food while you’re at the party, but leave whatever you don’t eat there! You don’t need to come home with a dozen tupperware containers full of unhealthful food, and you don’t have to bring a giant cookie platter with you either! If you want to take something home, by all means, go for it! But don’t feel obligated to take foods home, knowing that they won’t help with your health and wellness goals. If someone offers to give you food to take home anyway, you can simply say “No thank you. Everything was delicious, but I already did my grocery shopping this week and I know it would go to waste.”
BONUS TIP: Just enjoy yourself! An extra spoonful of stuffing on your plate won’t ruin your hard-earned six pack, just as splitting a huge slice of pie with your sister won’t sabotage all of your health and wellness goals. A perfectly clean diet won’t do anything for you if you’re miserable or unhappy. The holidays are about spending time with those that you love, and often we do that through sharing meals. Allow yourself to be present in the moment and share these memories with those you love most, rather than spending the entire evening feeling guilty for taking pleasure in something we all take part in.
I hope these tips give you peace of mind and allow you to feel confident in making healthful decisions over the holiday season! I wish you the very best in achieving your health and wellness goals, and I hope you have the most wonderful, love-filled holiday season!