Eating for the Holidays

Eating for the Holidays – Top Tips

Oh the seduction of the holidays, with all the yummy treats and large meals coupled with family gatherings, holiday parties, and all the other festive events and activities that fill our schedules this time of year…

As fun and exciting as the holiday season can be, it is not without its downside.  There’s too much food (nutritional stress), too many events on the schedule (general stress, not to mention a lack of sleep), too much spending (financial stress)… just to name a few.

As nostalgic as we may get about the holidays, when it comes to our overall health and nutrition it is important for us to be mindful of our choices. The November and December holiday season may take up less than 1/6 of the calendar, but the effects of it can have a profound impact on us for months, and sometimes years, to come.

The theory that “oh it’s the holidays, I am going to treat myself” sounds good in theory, but the reality is most of us say that a few too many times.  The holidays are a time of excess and abundance and most of us are not adept at successfully navigating that abundance.  The goal of today’s workshop is to help you gain some tips and tricks to help you make better, more mindful and informed choices as we head into this holiday season.

Common Holiday Eating Pitfalls:

  1. Overeating (bloating, upset stomach or other stomach issues)
  2. Too much sugar and/or fat
  3. Constant eating
  4. Not so much about weight gain…more about effects on body and how it feels

Top Tips for Avoiding the Holiday Eating Pitfalls:

  1. Moderation and smaller portions
    • You can have all of it (the turkey, filling, gravy, mashed potatoes, cookies, pie, etc.), but do it in moderation.
    • A few bites of each can suffice… and if it doesn’t, then go back for a little more.
    • Filling a plate ensures we will overeat and feel miserable… so don’t fill your plate.
    • Another philosophy of moderation is to focus on your most favorite things and get your fill and then maybe sample some of the other things if you want or are still hungry.
  2. Healthy snacking before the big meal or party
    • Yep, I am telling you to spoil your dinner so to speak!
    • Eating some healthy foods prior to going to the family dinner or office party will help keep you from overeating the less healthy items served at those events.
  3. Eat lots of seasonal foods… the more colorful the better!
    • This increases the likelihood that you’ll get plenty of vitamins and nutrients your body needs.
  4. Make healthy swaps where you can
    • Don’t add sugar to drinks.
    • Avoid or decrease alcohol consumption.
    • Consider the amount of a sauce or dressing (this would include things like gravy and whipped cream too) you are adding…can you cut back, put it on the side, etc.
    • Try to avoid processed foods, foods high in salt and added sugar, fatty or processed meats, and saturated fats.
  5. Be more active
    • We tend to sit around a lot during the holidays… watching the games, at meals and family gatherings.
    • Make a conscious effort to get out and be active… Go for a walk, play a sport, go to the gym, etc.
    • Involve the family or your friends and make it a part of the holiday festivities.
  6. When possible, you make the food so you can control what goes in it
    • Read the labels on the ingredients.
    • Use healthier options (healthy oils vs butter, etc.)
    • Know what is in your food as much as possible.
  7. Drink plenty of water
    • Water helps to fill us up as well as keep us hydrated.
    • This is especially important when drinking beverages containing alcohol. It helps cut calories (by drinking water and alcohol vs alcohol alone) and keeps you better hydrated.
  8. Mindful eating
    • When you eat your holiday meals, do so mindfully.
    • Slow down and savor the food.
    • Give your food time to digest so your body can tell you when it is full (to avoid overeating, bloating, upset stomach, etc.)
    • Ask yourself periodically if you are still enjoying the food… if not, stop eating.
    • Eat your veggies first to get lots of good nutrients (but watch out for butter, sauces, etc.)
  9. The buddy system
    • Split larger pre-cut portions with someone, especially when it comes to dessert.
  10. Just because it is out doesn’t mean you have to eat some of it
    • Take time to access if you are actually hungry
    • Be more mindful around food
    • Don’t stand by the buffet table
    • Know your triggers
    • It is okay to say no
  11. Accountability partner
    • Get someone who will be at the holiday meal or party with you to be your accountability partner.
    • Support and remind each other of the goals you set (not overeating, avoiding sweets, etc.)
  12.  Don’t skip meals
    • Skipping meals to save up room for a bigger meal later or to try and be counteractive to when you do eat more later is a bad idea.
    • Skipping meals disrupts blood sugar and other hormone levels which lends itself to overeating later on… especially overeating high fat and high sugar foods.
  13. Get plenty of sleep
    • Sleep loss impacts your blood sugar levels which can lead to increased consumption of high fat, high sugar foods.
    • Cravings will be harder to combat if your blood sugar is out of whack.

For more ideas, check out this Holiday Healthy Eating Guide from the American Heart Association.

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