I think most of us can agree that we are at the beginning of the “holidays” that last through the New Year. Though these months are, as some describe, the most “magical time of year,” it can also feel challenging to stay on track with our healthy living intentions.
Food often takes center stage at holiday events & gatherings. Food is given as gifts and offered to others as our way of showing love and gratitude. I bet you cannot think of a holiday event that does not incorporate food in one way or another!
The majority of us have healthy living intentions such as weight loss, staying consistent with movement, balancing blood sugars, and keeping blood pressure in check. Often, it can be easy to be sucked into that “all or nothing” way of thinking. We feel that if we “fall off the wagon” for a meal or indulge in a sweet treat, then we should just give up for the day and start fresh tomorrow.
This “all or nothing” thinking can be harmful to our health. I encourage you to instead try to work towards finding YOUR balance. Below you will find some of my FAVORITE Top 13 Tips for the Holidays (and Beyond)!
- Consider what it would be like to not make any food “off limits”...unless of course you have a food allergy or intolerance. We can enjoy all foods while still working towards our goals!
- Make a plan for the holidays. This to consider:
- Will you have a little treat every day?
- Will you make room for dessert during social events? Only some events?
- What fits into your plan?
- Going to a buffet-style meal? Look at all the options before making your selections! Once you know all your options it can be easier to choose the foods you really want instead of taking a “little of everything.”
- Eat consistently throughout the day. Often individuals lean into the mindset of “saving up calories” for the big meal, but that ultimately leads to bingeing and consuming more calories (and then the overly full, lethargic feeling settles in) than you would have had if you ate consistently throughout the day and enjoyed a moderate holiday meal with all your favorites!
- Remember, it's okay to say “no, thank you!” Enjoy the foods you like, but I encourage you to not let others pressure you into taking a second piece of pie or having another cocktail. That is up to you! Set your own healthy boundaries for your health and wellbeing! If this is a personal challenge of yours, walk through the scenario in your mind doing a little role play on how you will communicate this to your family, friend or loved one.
- Focus on the reason you are at the event. If you are there for the social aspect, to see family or friends you typically are unable to see, then food is sustenance, not the main reason for the event. Soak up the time with those around you!
- Set your environment up for success! If you feel tempted by the buffet or dessert bar, position yourself in a different area of the room. It is always easier to keep snacking if we are standing right at the hors d'oeuvre table.
- Make a plan to get in movement. If you are attending an all-day (or most of the day) holiday event/gathering, plan something active. Plan a walk or maybe snowshoe if you live someplace snowy. Make note that you plan to walk and invite your family/friends to go with you! You will be surprised at the number of people who would not mind getting some fresh air for 20 minutes or so!
- Bringing a dish?! Aim to bring something nutrient-dense. We all know the desserts & gravy will show up one way or another. The veggie platter and fruit salad are more questionable! I love to offer to make a salad or a veggie tray! You might also be surprised by how many people thank you for bringing some veggies! Remember - so many of us have similar intentions! It is also really convenient to have pre-cut veggies as “leftovers” to bring home - those make excellent snacks over the next few days!
- Plan to enjoy a cocktail? Try alternating with something like lemon water or a spritzer. You will consume fewer calories AND you will feel better the next day by keeping your body hydrated!
- Aim to add color to your plate! Sprinkle in veggies & fruits on your plate! It is easy to reach for the traditional holiday foods, which quite often do not contain veggies. Sometimes starting with some veggies off of a veggie platter or a salad can assure we get these nutritious foods in!
- Consider eating off of a smaller plate. If you tend to notice that your “eyes are bigger than your stomach” at holiday meals, a smaller plate can help keep portions in check!
- Take time to rest! Try to keep your to-do list at a manageable level and get to sleep at a reasonable time. Be sure to take time to de-stress, whatever method works best for you! Optimal sleep and stress management can help you stay consistent with physical activity as well as manage those food cravings.
Part of the key to getting through the holidays while staying on track with your healthy living intentions is mindfulness and preparation. A little forethought can help with having a plan and allow you to feel more confident attending holiday meals.
Remember, consider placing the “all or nothing” thinking on the back burner this year! Traditional holiday foods & treats are a part of our lives and can trigger happy memories, savor and enjoy mindfully! These foods can definitely fit into your balanced, healthy lifestyle!
Lacey Reeg, RD, LMNT, Phelps Memorial Health Center Dietician
Here is a great recipe to try over the holiday season! Enjoy!
Serving Size: ½ cup
1 ¾ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup 100% pomegranate juice
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup diced red onion
¼ cup freshly chopped cilantro
1 medium Bartlett or Red pear, cored and diced
½ Tbsp honey (optional)
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (optional)
Directions: In a medium-size bowl combine pomegranate seeds, pomegranate juice and lime juice; toss evenly to coat. Add minced red onion, cilantro, and diced pear; stir to combine. Add honey over seed mixture and stir to combine. Serve with baked tortilla or multi-grain chips, or use as a garnish for chicken or fish.
Nutrition Facts per Serving
Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrate: 15 grams
Sodium: 2 milligrams
Protein: 1 gram
Fiber: 2 grams