8 Healthy Holiday Eating Tips
Maintaining your wellness during the holiday season can be a challenge. Holiday parties, meals, and other festivities provide ample opportunity to stray from healthy eating habits. There are so many goodies and treats, and the temptation to try them all can be overwhelming. However, you can still enjoy the holidays and celebrate with family and friends without the overindulgence and harsh return to healthy habits in January. Here are eight tips for healthy holiday eating.
Eat only your favourite treats.
You don’t have to avoid everything and anything unhealthy during the holidays, as it is a time to celebrate and relax with loved ones. But instead of sampling every cookie or slice of pie that is placed in front of you, save your sweet tooth for your favourite treats. You also might prefer to wait for treats and dishes that you haven’t tried before, instead of the usual pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
Don’t skip the treats and food that you love, as these can bring us joy and delight during the holiday season. Enjoying treats in moderation will help ensure healthy holiday eating.
Keep track of your portions.
It can be tempting to fill your plate with heaping piles of mashed potatoes, candied yams, turkey, ham, and a slice of pie for dessert. But before you eat, take a moment to decide whether the amount of food on your plate matches your level of hunger. Start with smaller portions of your favourite dishes rather than large portions of every dish. After you have eaten, give your body a moment to catch up and register the meal. If you decide you are still hungry, holidays meals usually have enough leftovers to go around.
Another way to reduce overeating and maintain healthy holiday eating is to serve fewer dishes at the meal. If you are hosting, stick to one main dish and 2 or 3 side dishes. You may have to prepare a larger amount of the dishes than usual, but portion control will be easier. You won’t feel like you are missing out on a dish that you didn’t have room for on your plate, as there is less to try.
Recognize when you are full.
An important way of maintaining healthy holiday eating is eating slowly. This allows your body to realize when you are full. Eating too fast can cause a sudden feeling of overfullness, so that by the time you feel full, you are already too full. Eat slowly and stop when you feel full and satisfied.
Eating the vegetable dishes on your plate first will fill you up early and keep you feeling satisfied longer. This is another way to avoid overeating. Also, eat vegetables and protein during meals earlier in the day. This will keep you full until the holiday meal is ready.1
If you do overeat, take steps to recover and forgive yourself. Drink water after the meal, and in subsequent meals, eat lots of vegetables and leafy greens to balance any sugar or carb cravings.2 Remember to be kind to yourself – the holidays can be stressful as it is. Forgiving yourself will help you bounce back and enjoy the time with family and friends.
Substitute recipe ingredients for healthier options.
Substituting ingredients in dishes for healthier options is a great way to encourage healthy holiday eating. For example, you might add turmeric to the spice mixes you are using, as it is an anti-inflammatory and contains antioxidants, or you might switch sugar for coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, or even dates. Also, consider healthier oils for cooking such as coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee, or olive oil.3
If you are looking to reduce the amount of starch and carbs in a dish, get creative with your substitutions! Swap white rice for cauliflower rice, and bread for chickpea flatbread or almond bread.4
Don’t skip meals.
When you skip a meal earlier in the day with the intention of saving your calories or appetite for a large and high-calorie meal in the evening, the reverse ends up happening. You will be hungrier and more likely to overeat at the evening meal. You may even end up consuming more calories overall than if you had eaten a regular meal earlier in the day and a regular evening meal.
Try a vegetarian main dish.
Turkey and ham are often staples of any holiday meal but vegetarian dishes can be just as filling, comforting, and satisfying. This is an excellent way to incorporate more vegetables into the meal. You and your guests will stay fuller and be less likely to overeat.
If your guests aren’t on board with a vegetarian main dish, include vegetables in as many side dishes as you can. Offer to bring a healthy vegetarian dish if you aren’t hosting the meal.
Assess your hunger level.
Before you begin filling your plate with food, take a moment to assess your hunger levels. Consider when you last ate, what you last ate, and what you could eat now to nourish you. Make sure that what you eat is determined by hunger and not stress or boredom, and that you are eating because you want to eat, and not just because it is time to eat.
Manage stress and anxiety levels.
Often, increased levels of stress and anxiety impact how much we eat during the holidays. Stress can be brought on by several factors, including money, gifts, time allocation, and other factors. Anxiety and stress can cause not only overeating, but also an overindulgence in alcohol, threatening healthy holiday eating. Keep track of your stress levels and manage it by getting enough sleep and exercise, as well as practicing meditation and mindfulness as needed.
We hope this post inspired you to feel confident in your ability to maintain your healthy eating habits over the holidays. With a little effort – which you’re no stranger to, of course – these upcoming holidays can be filled with celebration, joy, and healthy holiday eating! If you’re concerned about the winter blues affecting your eating and your enjoyment of the holidays, here are some tips on finding joy during the winter months.