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5 Tips for a Healthy — and Satisfying — Holiday Season

November 08, 2022

It can be tough to resist your aunt’s special stuffing or mom’s once-a-year Bûche de Noël when you’re trying to avoid packing on the pounds over the holidays.

The truth is: You don’t have to. You just need to be smart and intentional about what you eat. The following tips will help you enjoy the holidays – and not feel regret come New Year’s Day.

Try These Strategies

1. Don’t abandon hard-earned good habits just because it’s the holiday season.

Even if you’re doing OK maintaining other parts of your healthy routine, like exercising and getting good sleep, food and alcohol — ever-present at this time — can create special challenges. But many holiday traditions — shopping, wrapping, decorating, caroling — don’t necessarily involve food. Make a list of celebratory activities that don’t revolve around eating, then enlist your family and friends to brainstorm even more personal, meaningful favorites.

2. Don’t skip breakfast — do skip treats you can get 365 days a year. (We see you, M&Ms.)

You can make mashed potatoes any day. But your aunt’s stuffing? That’s special‚ so enjoy it — but skip that store-bought roll. Yes, mindful eating can be hard to practice in a busy season, but the holidays roll around every year — odds are good this won’t be your last piece of pumpkin pie ever. Sugar cravings are real, for sure, and also totally normal. Rather than struggling to eliminate those feelings, try to manage them and find balance in your diet. Give yourself a “cookie budget” — or whatever it is that you really want — and then use it wisely on things that are truly special to you. Ordering pizza on a crazy night? Add a salad. A more balanced diet will help you stay mindful because you’ll get better nutritional value from what you are eating. Just slowing down and making more conscious decisions can cut the calories quickly. But don’t overthink it — if all else fails, eat a vegetable.

3. Don’t go anywhere hungry.

Being hangry isn’t pretty at any time of year, and letting yourself get ravenous is just asking for a fall. A healthy breakfast and a light lunch will help you make better decisions later, especially when a glass of bubbly or two might upend your resolve. It may seem counterintuitive, but eating more normally during the day will set you up for better choices at that fabulous supper party you look forward to all year.

4. Say “Yes, but …”

Food is a tricky business — especially when there’s a smorgasbord spread before you — so develop a few tricks of your own. You really can try a little of everything if you make portion control your friend. A few ideas:

  • Use the smallest available plate.
  • Don’t settle anywhere near the buffet.
  • Treat yourself to a dressy, clutch-style bag — they’re both elegant and make it harder to balance a plate and drink. (Plus it puts something in your hand that’s not food).

Even though we all make many food decisions every day of the year, in a TikTok world of instant gratification, it can be especially hard to resist the lure of the holiday treat. The trouble is, because that sugar high will wear off quickly, you will soon want another. And another. Instead of fighting the battle for avoidance, make the things you want part of your plan. Love those peanut butter blossoms you make just once a year with your best friend? Make and freeze — now you can pull out just one now and again instead of being faced with disposing – or consuming! -- dozens at once.

5. Don’t forget to enjoy it!

If you stay in the moment, you’re more likely to savor the season and not just plow mindlessly forward, fork in hand. And if you fall off the good-intentions wagon? Realize life is going to happen — nobody eats perfectly all the time. The trick is how you manage it: Instead of letting the holidays throw you off for weeks or months afterward, give yourself a little grace period and then begin to build back, working on one habit or meal each day. It’s like jet lag — you can’t expect to be back to normal instantly, but with a little time and patience you’ll be ready to focus on a healthy year ahead.

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