It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But it can also be the most stressful, especially if you are trying to eat healthy. That is why I compiled five of my favorite tips and tricks to help you get through the holiday season without the guilt. Remember though, a gingerbread cookie every now and then is totally warranted!
- Eat mindfully until satisfied, not full.
Often when we are presented with so many options, we eat as quickly as possible, and before we know it, we have full stomachs and can barely move. But by eating slowly, we can prevent this feeling, and still enjoy all everything. It takes about 15-20 minutes for the brain to be told we are full, so slowing down the meal allows this to happen before we overeat.
Eating more mindfully also gives us the opportunity to savor our food much more. This way we will feel more content with less. Overall, we will eat less, but enjoy the meal so much more with half the guilt.
- Pay attention to your portion sizes
I love this graphic because it is easier to visualize how much you should be eating at each meal. Often at big holidays, the table is inundated with every food imaginable, and it can be very overwhelming. I suggest mixing and matching to make these recommended amounts. For example, you can still have both the mashed potatoes and stuffing, just take half portion of each to make the ‘cupped hand’ portion size.
- Don’t pre-diet before the holidays
We live in a diet-frenzied world. There is this obsession with a secret “quick fix” that will solve all our health problems, that *spoiler alert*, doesn’t exist. Dieting before the holidays implies that you are intending to binge and overeat during them. This is already setting you up for failure, and you will be too busy depriving yourself of needed nutrients and energy, that you won’t spend time actually enjoying yourself. You will also end up using all your willpower, leading to poor dietary choices.
I used to be like this. If I knew I was having a big dinner or dessert later in the day, I would purposefully not eat a lot, essentially starving myself. But this would just make me indulge more because I was even more hungry. So, I would spend the afternoon eating junk food and sweets while stressing about how I needed to “save” calories for later. This is not true! If you want a cookie, eat the cookie! Otherwise, you won’t be able to get the thought out of your mind, and may end up eating five.
- Watch your alcohol intake
Alcohol often pours freely this time of year. After all, it is a time of celebration. However, these extra calories can add up (alcohol is 7 calories a gram!). If you want to enjoy some drinks, aim to drink a glass of water or seltzer between each. This way you will stay hydrated and cut your calorie consumption in half. On this note, often we are drinking during social situations, so try to focus on being with your loved ones rather than hovering near the buffet table. Think of these outings as primarily socialization events, over an excuse for free food and drinks.
- Make substitutions in your favorite recipes
There are so many delicious dishes during the holidays, but more often than not, they are loaded with extra calories and other unwanted ingredients. There are endless substitutions you can do to make healthier versions, but here are a few that I regularly use:
- Substitute white flour for half whole-wheat and half white flour in baking
- Instead of frying, bake, grill, or steam vegetables
- When buying prepared foods, compare the labels, choosing the product with lower added sugar and sodium
- When the recipe allows, substitute heart-healthy oil for butter
I hope these tips inspired you to enter the holiday season with a positive and healthy mindset! As always, please reach out if you have any questions about this material or other nutrition concerns at [email protected].