How to Eat During the Holidays

people gathered around for a holiday meal

The season’s upon us, it’s that time of year.  With an abundance of rich food, there’s plenty to fear. You don’t have to have a Blue Christmas, though. You can still indulge yourself without losing sight of your health goals.

Sweet treats and rich meals can feel like landmines for health-conscious people, yet no one wants to feel deprived during the happiest season of all. For some there is often one meal, which is no big deal. Others have very large families, which means many meals that happen throughout the end of the year. No need to fear—there are sensible ways to navigate this territory.

Eat what you love, leave what you like.

We all have a list of our favorite holiday dishes – Fried Turkey, Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potato Pie. Make room on your plate for those things you absolutely love. But just because the food is served in a buffet style doesn’t mean you have to pile all the dishes on your plate.

Aunt Nancy might promise you her Rice Casserole is ‘even better’ this year. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and only grab the foods that spark joy. If you’re not swooning, leave it on the sideline. Aunt Nancy might get her feelings hurt, but that’s not a “you” problem.

Leave the guilt.

Feeling guilty after eating foods you don’t usually allow yourself to eat can breed more unhealthy behaviors. So, abandon those negative voices in your head. 

Give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence guilt-free, and then remember to get back on track with your normal eating routine the very next day. As I have written before, 20 minutes of eating isn’t going to cancel out the rest of the year of training hard and eating clean. Your body does still require calories to burn calories.

Turkey, Squash, Pumpkin Pie and other holiday foods on a table

Don’t eat it just because it’s “Holiday food”.

Listen to your body. Most people eat particular foods like pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving or cups of eggnog at Christmas parties because “that’s what we do during the holidays”. 

Noshing without thinking about what you’re putting into your body and why makes you ignore your internal cues of hunger and satiety. Do you really even like pumpkin pie or eggnog? If you could have any treat, why wouldn’t you choose your favorite ice cream or hot cocoa instead? Just because it’s limited doesn’t mean you have to eat it.

Don’t be fooled by the “health halo.”

Many of our favorite holiday foods trick you into thinking they are healthy because its similar to something you would eat normally. Chopped veggies with dip, creamy asparagus soup, green bean casserole, roasted root vegetable medley all sound healthy because of their ingredients. But overeating these things can be just as bad as polishing off a pint of ice cream.

Make sure you’re not eating something based solely on its health-food aura and keep an eye on your portion sizes. Too much of a healthy thing is still a bad thing, especially when you’re three servings in!

It’s ok to tell people “no.”

Whether it’s Grandma’s caramel cake or your best friend’s first attempt at a holiday roast, often you may feel forced to eat certain foods simply because people keep offering them to you. Put on a genuine smile, politely decline, and then offer a compliment. Make this a positive situation instead of letting it increase tension from others’ good intentions.

An example can be; “Oh, these truffles look amazing, and you’re so thoughtful to make them for me! I’m too full to enjoy them right now, but could I take a couple home?” They’ll feel loved and you won’t feel pressured to show your affection through busting a gut or ripping a seam.

woman eating peanut butter from the jar in slouchy clothes

Don’t wear your comfy pants.

We all have a family member that only wears comfy pants to holiday meals. Don’t be this person. Wear something that has structure to it and that won’t feel comfortable if you over-indulge too much.

You don’t have to wear skin tight pants that won’t allow you eat anything without feeling suffocated, just wear something that will give you a reminder to mind your intake. This rule is especially helpful for people that have trouble turning down Aunt Nancy’s rice casserole or Grandma’s caramel cake!

Don’t add more stress to an already stressful season. Take control of the situation and live!

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