Strategies for a Healthy Holiday Season
Is it really possible to stay healthy this holiday season?
Staying healthy doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself. Instead, what if you decided “healthy holiday season” meant keeping up your mental, physical, and emotional energy – and then made choices to align with that goal?
Don’t Rely on Willpower to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
Candy and cookies, fruit cakes and more,
Parties and champagne and cocktails galore,
There goes my willpower right out the door!
Does this sound like you during the holidays?
So many of us do our best to make it through the holidays on willpower alone, and we end up beating ourselves up when the pumpkin pie or the turkey stuffing talks us into abandoning our commitment to “not do it again.” What works instead, is to have a strategy in place so that you can still enjoy great foods, including those that have Holiday Tradition written all over them.
Simple Strategies for a Healthy Holiday Season
1. Offer to host.
This is one of the smartest ways to stay healthy during the holiday season because you have control over what kind of food is being served.
You get to create the menu and do some of the cooking yourself. Cook whatever will support you in your healthy eating plan, then ask people to bring foods they enjoy.
2. BYOF (Bring Your Own Food).
If you’re unable to host and decide to celebrate somewhere else, offer to bring a dish that’s good for your body, one you can eat that does not screw up your eating routine. Make it tasty and amazing; set the example by being the one who shows up with great tasting, healthy food.
There are recipes all over the internet for great crowd-pleasing, healthy recipes for appetizers, main dishes, and desserts. Choose something you’ll enjoy that will also keep you on track with your health goals.
3. Fill your plate up with plants.
Veggie and fruit trays at gatherings are your friend.
Aim for 75% plants (mostly vegetables and some fruit).
If you eat meat, choose lean proteins (chicken, fish, turkey) and ditch the bread.
Avoid crackers, bread, dairy-based dips, and cookies. Those kinds of carbs spike your insulin levels and trigger your body to make glucose, which increases belly fat – not to mention plummets your energy.
4. Don’t show up hungry.
Whether you’re hosting the party or attending as a guest, this is one of the best ideas for a healthy holiday season..
Even though there will be plenty of food, set yourself up for success by eating a healthy breakfast and then eating again before you go (even if it’s not quite time to eat your next meal).
Choose a healthy, filling snack with protein and fat so you stay full longer. For example, make a big dish of scrambled eggs with avocado. This option is healthy, will fill you up, and won’t spike your blood sugar. And most importantly, since you won’t be starving, you won’t hit the appetizer table the moment you arrive!
5. Apply the Buffet Fly-by rule.
Buffets are dietary kryptonite for many people during the holiday season.
They often lead to “grazing” or overloading your plate with foods you feel compelled to eat. (This is especially true if you grew up being told you must eat what’s on your plate before getting up to leave – a hard mindset habit to break!)People who are overeaters start at one end of the buffet line and put a scoop of every single thing on their plate.
Instead, try my “buffet fly-by” tip to stay healthy this holiday:
Circle the buffet table, look closely at it, decide what you will eat, and what you won’t eat. Then grab your plate and scoop strategically.
There is no rule that you have to eat every single thing offered. You’re not going to offend anyone if you don’t eat what they brought.
It’s okay to say nothing at all about why you chose what you did. If pressed, a simple explanation could be, “That looks amazing, but it’s not on my eating plan right now.” Have a strategy and stick to it.
6. Take a 20-minute food break.
Before you go back for seconds, give your body time to send signals to your brain that you’re full. For most of us, this takes 20-30 minutes.
Eating too quickly is a major energy-zapper – and a root cause of holiday overindulgence. When you give your body time to begin the digestion process and report back to your brain that you have enough food, not only will you consume fewer calories, you’ll actually improve your digestion and have more stamina for the rest of the party.
7. Sit to eat.
At parties, it’s often common to stand and eat. Maybe there aren’t enough seats. Maybe you’re invested in a conversation and want to multi-task.
But don’t stand around and eat while holding your plate, gobbling it in, because you’re going to end up overeating if you do.
This is one of the easiest tips to stay healthy this holiday. Find a nice cozy place to sit down, invite people to join you, and settle in. Socialize between bites, chew slowly, and enjoy the company.
Don’t fixate on the food. Make it more about the experience with these people you love and care about. Chances are you’ll end up getting full, and won’t even eat the whole plate anyway.
8. Avoid hanging out next to the food table.
Don’t hang out by the food table when you’re not actively putting food on your plate. Hanging out there leads to mindless grazing, adding needless calories when you’re likely not even hungry.
9. Apply smart alcohol strategies.
It’s best to avoid alcohol, especially on an empty stomach. Not only does alcohol stimulates the desire to eat more, it also takes away your common sense. It’s not uncommon for game plans to get thrown out the window when alcohol is introduced, so avoid it if you’re serious about your health goals or you know you make poor decisions when it’s involved.
If you DO decide to have a drink, stay away from beer, wine, fruity drinks, and the drinks made with sweet sodas. They’re loaded with sugars and poor-quality carbs that give you quick jolts of energy, but lead to headaches and grogginess.
Instead, choose a clear liquor with water or seltzer. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime for flavor. And, stop at one if you choose to have a drink.
10. Move your body.
You get to be the party-starter – the one who kicks off the dancing, grabs the karaoke mike, or initiates a game. Be the first to get up and move your body. It will motivate others to do it with you.
When you move your body, you increase your energy naturally and begin to burn calories at the same time. Plus, not only will you have a much better time, but you’ll be less inclined to hang out by the chips and dip station.
11. Avoid your trigger foods.
We all have foods we can’t seem to resist – and they often involve sugar. So when dessert time rolls around, have your strategy in place. Don’t let dessert control you.
Let’s say chocolate cake and apple pie are on the menu – and you know you have no control around chocolate cake. It’s your trigger food.
Instead, choose the apple pie! Avoid the cake because you know the minute it’s in your mouth; you’re going to go back for a second piece. You still get to indulge in something sweet and festive, but you’re reducing your chances of overeating – and feeling guilty.
12. Focus on social connections.
While many of us think of food as a key component of the holidays, it’s really about the joy of being around loved ones and friends. Focus on what you can create regarding relationships and conversation. Don’t let the food take center stage in your experience. Instead, let the experience be about the people you’re with.
Sit down, take time to talk with those people you rarely get to see. After all, what you’ll remember most is the memories about the people you were with – not the food you ate.
13. Be kind to yourself.
We all make mistakes. After all, we’re only human. So instead of beating yourself up if you slip up this holiday season, be kind to yourself. Remember that today is a new day… which means a fresh opportunity to make new choices.
Many of us respond to food-related missteps with wild, completely unrealistic promises to ourselves:
- That’s it, no more sugar ever.
- I’m just going to eat salads for the rest of the year.
- I’m never drinking again.
- Juice cleanse starts now.
And when we can’t follow through on these hyperbolic promises, we feel bad about ourselves all again – a vicious cycle that can be hard to break.
So instead, love yourself healthy. Make yourself a promise you can keep. Take baby steps toward your healthy holiday goals.
Instead of trying to change all your holiday eating habits at once, choose one you can work on at a time. For example, if you’re used to filling up your plate at the buffet AND drinking too much AND grazing at the appetizer table, choose one change for your next holiday party.
Maybe you apply the “buffet fly-by” rule. Or position your hangout spot far away from the snack table. Or try my clear alcohol tip.
When you are successful at following through on one small change, you’ll be motivated to keep the momentum going for the next event.
14. Enlist support.
One of the main reasons people struggle this time of year isn’t due to a lack of ideas for a healthy holiday…
It’s not having support.
When you feel ill-prepared going into a holiday gathering or like you’re the only one on a healthy eating regimen, it’s extremely easy to slip back into old, unhealthy patterns that no longer serve you.
Many of my clients credit our sessions together as the #1 reason they’re able to have a happy, healthy holiday season.
One where they experience all the joy of the holidays, but without the guilt, hangovers, or extra 10 pounds most others pick up come the new year.
I’d love to offer you this gift as well – and hear about your unique goals this holiday season. Chances are there are tiny tweaks we can make together to help stay healthy this holiday.
Let’s find time to chat – there’s no cost or obligation for you to speak to a health coach on my team.
Here’s our calendar, so you can choose a time that works best for you.
My hope for you during this season is that you will enjoy every minute, using these strategies to create a way of being at social events at any time of the year.
Happy Holidays, and Take Good Care,