The holidays are full of fun and celebration, but also loaded with temptations, and splurges. This time of year tends to be dreaded by people trying to improve food choices, and that “all or none” mentality is everywhere. Read below for 8 healthy eating tips to keep you on track this season, while still allowing enjoyment and pleasure for all that the holidays bring!
1. Set Realistic Goals
This is a time of year for celebration, and gratitude. If your plan is to follow a very rigid eating and exercise routine, that may be setting yourself up for failure. Be realistic with what you can accomplish this time of year. Some examples might be, to pick 1 splurge per day, continue on with your meal/snack schedule or your fasting window, or to aim to eat a serving of vegetables at lunch and/or dinner daily. While it’s helpful to think of weight as an outcome, not a goal, you may aim to stay weight stable this time of year versus losing (or gaining) – and this is absolutely okay.
2. Continue with your regular exercise routine
While eating may not be exactly the same this month, one realistic goal may be to continue with your weekly workouts during this season of celebration. Continuing to get regular movement helps many people feel better, make better food choices, and stay slightly on track towards their goals as temptations arise. Exercise is also a great way to relieve extra stress, and can be a distraction from mindless eating, two things that may be more present this time of year.
3. Seek out fruits and vegetables
Let’s be honest, most holiday recipes and treats are not necessarily centered around fruits or vegetables. Seeking out balance on your plate, and adding color to your meals is a great way to focus on eating higher quality meals any time of year. If you’re up for it, try this fruit and veggie challenge, or just get familiar with how much a “serving” is. In general, a serving of vegetables can be estimated;
½ cup cooked vegetables (1 cupped hand)
1 cup raw vegetables (1 fist size).
If you’re working on adding more vegetables, aim for 4-5 servings a day, or just look to include something with color at your meals
4. Ask yourself, “Am I hungry”?
Reflecting on hunger and fullness throughout the day is a great way to tune in to your body’s natural cues around food. This is something that is helpful any time of year, but asking yourself, “Am I hungry?” before you eat something may be especially helpful this season. It’s easy to be visually cued by foods and treats all around, but if you can take a moment to pause and reflect on hunger or ask yourself if you’re hungry, you may be able to make a better decision versus acting on impulse. Try using this hunger and fullness scale to stay on track before/after meals this season or anytime of year.
5. Choose your splurge
Decadent dishes, appetizers, alcohol, desserts… so many of these temptations are just around all day, everyday this time of year. But just because something is there, doesn’t mean you have to participate. I recommend picking your splurges this season, and budgeting for what you think is most important to enjoy. Do you want that grocery store cookie, generic candy wrapped in holiday colors, standard beer, or chips and dip that you can get whenever you want? Or are you holding out for your favorite christmas cookie, designer dark chocolate, special glass of wine, or homemade appetizer that is rarely around. If you choose everything, you may run into issues, but if you just decide what is worth the splurge, you will do just fine without feeling deprived.
6. Eat what you want, within reason
Denial is often the cornerstone of desire. While some swear by complete avoidance, it’s human nature to want what you can’t have. Because of this, it’s important to include your favorite foods within reason, versus denying yourself something you really want. They key is to focus on quality, not quantity in an effort to be more mindful of your food choices. If you’d like to learn more about mindful eating, read this article by Alicia Rumsey, RD and try her 5-minute mindful eating exercise. It’s a great way to enjoy something delicious, slowly, and mindfully, so you can feel satisfied with less but enjoy what you really want.
7. Remember this is not the last time you will eat
Sometimes we may over-indulge, or over-restrict, acting like January 1 is right around the corner so we have to act differently now. A good “diet” is one you can continue for a long period of time, and one that doesn’t have too many rules around food. Remembering that even if you are planning on resetting your eating patterns next month, you may want to choose something that is sustainable, and that will allow you to eat the foods you enjoy in order to stick with it long term. That being said, you don’t need to say goodby to foods or act like you will never see them again. Try to think reasonably now about foods, portion sizes, and frequency so you can set yourself up for success come January.
8. Be kind to yourself
Try not to carry food guilt with you everywhere. If you choose to eat it, enjoy it, and then move on to the next meal, the next snack, or the next day. Even if it’s something that may not be planned, learning to reset after mistakes or poor food choices is a helpful tool this season so you’re not carrying around that “all or none” mindset. Learning to not carry food guilt with you is critical at keeping your food choices steady, and sustained long term. Setting realistic goals to begin with is a great way to avoid this food guilt, but even if you misstep, the day is not ruined! Stay in the moment, and be present for your food choices, and learn to let it go after its over.
Holiday eating take aways
It’s holiday season, but health can still be front of mind. The body you’re living in right now is also the same body you will be living in on January 1st. By trying these 8 healthy eating tips this season, you can enjoy this time of year, while also staying on track with your fitness and nutrition goals this month, and in the months coming up.
For more help staying on track, resetting with a nutrition / lifestyle plan, or setting realistic goals this season, email Nutrition Synergy for availability at firstname.lastname@example.org
In Strength and Wellness,