The holiday season, for many around the country, brings with it delicious food, fun activities, and good memories with family. From Halloween to New Years Eve, there is always a lot of reason to celebrate around this time of year and indulge in a vast array of waistline expanding foods or sugary treats. Unfortunately, those fattening and sugary dishes don’t pair well with most weight loss programs and when enjoyed in excess amounts can lead to more serious health effects. Despite knowing the health effects of these foods, many Americans still enjoy them every holiday season. Regardless, we all know how difficult it can be to resist the temptation to over-indulge in these unhealthy dishes and treats during this time of the year. Fortunately, you don’t have to completely cut your delicious holiday favorites out in order to adhere to a healthy diet and ensure you continue to manage all of your health goals. Here we’ve done the work for you by compiling some helpful tips for healthy holiday eating!
Although it might not sound like the easiest strategy, starting your holiday meals with larger servings of fruits and vegetables along with adding more whole grains and protein can be a great way to manage your holiday diet. A good way to measure this is by aiming to fill up close to half of your plate with fruits and vegetables while reserving the other half for whole grains and protein. Of course some room can be left for a small dessert or guilty pleasure dish, as long as your enjoying those in moderation. By filling the majority of your plate with more nutritional foods such as whole grains and vegetables, you leave less room for unhealthy options while simultaneously giving your body a meal that will more adequately fill your hunger. It is also a good idea to make sure you are eating slowly, the brain takes about 20 minutes to get the signal from your stomach that you’ve eaten enough. Eating at a slower pace will allow you to not only savor the flavor of your food more but it also allows your stomach enough time to let your brain know that its had enough.
A key mistake that is unfortunately made by many people around the holidays is skipping breakfast or lunch in anticipation of a large family meal. Although it may be tempting to fast or starve yourself leading up to your big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with the family, it isn’t a good idea if you’re trying to watch your weight or follow a healthy diet. The problem with fasting before a big meal is that most people tend to overeat, especially at a family holiday dinner since there are large portions of what is typically fattening or sugary food. Foods high in sugar, fat, and carbs tend to make you feel even hungrier as you eat them. Confusing your stomach and causing it to send hunger signals to your brain. Sometimes the holiday meal is an hour or two later than your normal meal times so you most likely will be hungrier than usual when its finally time to eat. A good strategy to avoid this issue is by eating a small breakfast to start your day and a small healthy lunch prior to your larger holiday meal. This will allow you to still have an appetite by the time your holiday meal roles around but at least you won’t be completely starving either.
Another mistake many people make during the holidays is over-indulging in alcoholic beverages. Many people assume that liquid calorie such as the ones from alcohol don’t have the same impact that foods do but this simply isn’t true. Alcohol is high in both sugar and in some cases carbs which can not only leave you feeling sluggish but also lead to increased body fat. So if you want to avoid putting an extra hole in that belt loop of yours, limiting your alcohol intake and drinking in moderation is the best strategy. If you choose to have alcohol with your meals, try to treat it like dessert. Using low-calorie mixers like diet soda and seltzers can also be an effective way of limiting your liquid caloric intake. If you are going to consume alcohol throughout your family get together, it is also a good idea to alternate between drinking water and alcohol as it will limit your alcohol consumption while ensuring you stay hydrated.
Taking all of this into consideration, it is still important to treat yourself a little bit. After all, it is the holidays right? And what kind of holiday season would it be without a little bit of dessert? Not a very fun one that’s for sure. The key is to enjoy your favorite holiday desserts in moderation. Try taking mini portions of several kinds of dessert or limiting yourself to one regular portion of your favorite instead of multiple large portions or a large portion followed by several small ones. You can also try no sugar added varieties of sweet potato or berry pies to curb your sugar intake when its time for dessert. Lastly, make sure you get enough sleep going into the holidays. You’re more likely to overeat and make poor choices when your body lacks sleep so ensuring you get a healthy 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly will help you resist your junk food cravings and ensure you have a healthy holiday season!