12 Tips To A Healthier Holiday Season

holiday pine and berries

t's that time of the year when the leaves get crisp, wool scarves and tall boots cover shivering bodies, and there are more social events and tempting goodies than one can handle. The fall and winter months are especially notorious for having an impact on the waistlines of American's. But, don't fret, there are some things you can do to help prevent gaining the holiday weight. 

Plan, plan, plan

If you know you will be in a tempting situation, make a point to set aside time to foresee any challenges that you may face and formulate a plan of action.  What foods will you choose at this gathering? Do you need to bring your own foods? How will you respond to any questions you may get or pressure you may receive from other guests?

Do not go to social events hungry

Hunger is a strong driver to eat, and being hungry when you go to a social outing can take away the will power you need to make good choices. Having a small protein rich “mini meal” before a social event can help ensure that the will power you have is enough to help you stick to your goal. Have a protein-rich snack such as a protein drink, string cheese, Greek yogurt, lunchmeat roll ups, shrimp cocktail, etc. before you go.

Offer to bring a dish or appetizer

If you anticipate there won’t be too many healthy options at the event, offer to bring your own high protein or veggie option so you will have something to fill up on. Ideas include shrimp cocktail, lunch meat roll-ups, bean salad, veggie dip made with Greek yogurt, etc.

Place yourself away from the food

If you are not hungry, or it is not yet time to eat, find a location away from easy to grab snacks and appetizers to avoid eating “just because it’s there”.

Survey buffet table before you get your plate

Choose what you will take before getting in line so you do not get to the end of the buffet with way too much food.  Start with a small plate and focus on protein first. This helps you emphasize the nutrient that controls hunger best. Next, add some veggies or salad. Finally, if necessary, pick a small portion of the carb “you can’t live without”.

Ask yourself “what is it that I really like?”

If your holiday tradition has included a favorite pie, what is it about that pie that is a real treat for you? Is it the crust, the topping or the filling? Taking a small portion of the filling, for example, still provides the taste but avoid the calories of the parts you can live without. If you like the whole dessert, try taking a smaller amount than you normally would.

Choose beverages wisely

Remember alcohol and high sugar drinks can really add up in calories (12 oz beer ~110-180 calories, 5 oz wine ~ 106 calories, 1.5 fl oz liquor ~ 105 calories). Making wise choices may be impaired with consumption of alcohol as well. Bring your own favorite low calorie beverage to sip on.

Eat, breathe, chat, pause

Concentrate on your company. Have some great conversation and share some laughs with your family and friends. When it comes to the meal, take your time to savor each bite of food and enjoy it. Slow down and appreciate the sounds, smells, sights, and tastes of the holiday season. The first few bites deliver the most taste and pleasure, so eating a small portion brings as much pleasure and avoids the excess calories.

Be physically active

You can enjoy so many health benefits from physical activity. Moving your body burns calories, improves cardiovascular health, builds and maintains muscles, reduces stress, and improves mood. Some people find that days they exercise, they tend to eat healthier as well!

Control stress

Holidays can be very stressful which may lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and find ways to reduce your stress. There are many websites and books that offer stress reducing strategies. Try a few and see which work for you.

Keep food and exercise logs

Many people find it helpful to record their food and exercise behaviors to keep on track. This is especially helpful during the holiday season when there may be many other things running through your mind. When time is limited during the holiday season, refer back to previous journal entries to find meal and snack ideas that you previously enjoyed. This will save you time having to brainstorm what to make when you have other priorities.

Also, if you feel you are more prone to emotional eating during the holidays, keep a food and feelings diary. If you are not eating due to actual hunger, try to determine why you are using food for comfort. Tell yourself that food will not give you a long-term fix to the issue or problem you are facing. Seek help from family members, friends, co-workers or counselors if you need.

Have a family gathering focused on games or an activity

Share an activity with friends and family that doesn’t have food as a centerpiece. Place yourself away from the food and try to distract yourself as much as you can. Bring your favorite puzzle, cards, or board game and start a family tradition! Some other ideas are Nintendo Wii challenges, team trivia games, Charades, watching a funny movie, or going for a walk outside as a group. Have some fun and notice how food becomes less important. Food is not the only pleasurable aspect of the holidays. Look at all the ways to enjoy family and friends and make the most of the season this year.

And most importantly, have some fun!