With the holidays upon us and indulgences soon to be around every corner I am getting a lot of questions about how to keep eating healthy throughout the holidays.
Whether you are trying to avoid certain ingredients because you have a known food sensitivity, or you are simply looking to cut back on the amount of sweets and alcohol you consume, these tips are a good place to get started.
That said, my approach to the holidays may be a little different from your standard nutrition recommendations. I like to teach a realistic, balanced approach to nutrition. One that is honest with you about how food impacts your overall health, but also acknowledges that eating 100% perfect (what’s perfect anyway?) all of the time is a little too obsessive and dogmatic and can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. So, with that in mind, I think my first tip may surprise you…
#1. Eat the cake.
Or the cookie, brownie, pumpkin roll, pie, whatever. There is a catch though. Be honest with yourself about how much you are indulging and set a goal before heading out to a party. Maybe your goal is one piece of cake and one cookie. Choose your FAVORITE ones and enjoy every single bite thoroughly and completely. Chew slowly, consciously and make yourself aware of every morsel.
Alternatively, make a healthier version and bring it with you. If you’re avoiding dairy, eggs, gluten or nuts, a replacement recipe is easy to find. Simply Google “gluten free,” “paleo,” “dairy free,” “egg free,” recipes and you’ll find tons of options. Some of my favorite sites for healthier treat recipes are here, here and here.
Often times we get hung up on the notion that we “can’t” eat something because it’s “bad.” These thoughts give food morality and you end up feeling like a bad person because of what you eat. Which is pretty much nonsense. Once we get rid of these silly thoughts, we are able to truly choose the food we eat and not feel guilty or shame for eating those foods. For more on the psychology of eating and breaking free of these negative thoughts about food, talk to my friend Sarah Herstich, LCSW.
#2 Bring Your Favorite Side Dish With You
Before heading to a gathering, ask the host or hostess if you could bring a dish. Then, whip up something you know you’ll like and that you feel good when eating. Maybe it’s a salad, appetizer or dessert that is made with healthy ingredients. I love some basic bacon wrapped dates, prosciutto wrapped asparagus with avocado garlic dip, or maybe a simple olive and cheese platter. For a more hearty offering, perhaps bring some crock pot meatballs, a big bowl of Napa Cabbage salad, or grain-free sausage stuffing. (Thank you Erica Colvin Photography for this idea!).
#3 Watch The Processed Carbs & Sugar
OK, this one is counter to number #1, but it’s also important. Too much processed carbohydrate and sugar throughout the day sends our system on a constant roller coaster ride of blood sugar regulation. This roller coaster can make you anxious, lethargic, moody, disrupt your sleep, hinder your health goals (including weight loss), and more.
While grocery shopping during the holiday season load your cart up with fresh vegetables, fruit, and a variety of protein. Leave the extra carbs at the store. This way you’ll be filling your belly with healthy options throughout the week and you’ll be able to handle any “eat the cake” situations better at your parties. You may even also notice that the sugar high and crash from the cake choice isn’t totally worth it…or not. But either way, stick to whole, nutrient dense foods as much as possible and then the other 10-20% of the time, choose consciously and then let it go. Sound good?
#4 Have Fun And Move
Not a nutrition tip, but it needs to be mentioned because movement is important. We know that getting regular exercise helps us manage stress so why wait until January to get moving? Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise, 3-4 times per week. If you’re already on a regular workout routine, awesome, if not, then consider gifting yourself some time for movement. This can be simply a walk outside, stretching, yoga, or some weight lifting at a local gym. Give yourself this time and get it on your schedule. Consider buying a few classes doing an activity you like. It could be kickboxing, tap dancing, or jumping on the trampoline at a local bounce place. Find something you enjoy! Trust me, your mind and soul will be happier for it.
#5 Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Plate
Food choices are a very personal decision. If your family and friends don’t ask, don’t feel like you need to explain why you are choosing the veggie platter and dip over the macaroni salad, for example. Avoiding this topic altogether and just feeling good about the choices you make will lessen the stress you feel about being “judged” for your choices. And let’s face it, if someone is criticizing you for choosing a vegetable over a croissant, then they are likely projecting their negative feelings about how they relate to food onto you. You should feel empowered with your decisions, not demeaned. So, it’s best to mind yo’ bidness and just do you!
I hope these simple tips can help you navigate your holidays with confidence while having a little fun along the way.
If you’re up for a little extra help between Thanksgiving and Christmas, join us for one of our Holiday RESTART classes beginning Sunday, November 19th or Tuesday, November 21st. More info and to sign up here.