It’s that time of year again, family and loved ones come together to feast and mingle for the holiday season. Saying ‘no’ to unhealthy food options during the holidays can be tricky, especially when there are so many homemade desserts going around. But just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to overindulge. You can maintain your healthy eating habits during the holidays while still enjoying delicious food. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 12 healthy eating tips to help keep your on track during the holidays.
1. Portion Control
There are ways to maintain healthy eating habits without passing up on delicious family recipes that you may only get once a year. One way is to be mindful and control how much you eat. For example, consider opting for a small sliver of the pie, rather than your usual large slice. Once you’ve finished, take a breather and determine if you would like more. This is important if you want to avoid overindulging, which can make you sluggish and uncomfortable as well as add on extra pounds.
2. Wait 10 Minutes Between Servings
When surrounded by so much delicious food, it’s easy to get carried away. Give your stomach a few minutes to tell your brain that it is full. There is a real communication delay between these two parts of your body. Finishing your plate and immediately running in for seconds is an easy way to overdo it.
3. Volunteer to Cook
Before you throw your head back and laugh, think about it. There are endless online recipes that offer healthy alternatives for you and your family. Make a list of your favorite holiday staples and tweak those recipes with healthier alternative ingredients. Not only will take some of the pressure off your usual holiday chef, it will ensure that you have something tasty to eat that doesn’t compromise your health goals.
4. Limit Alcoholic and Sugary Holiday Beverages
Consider switching out one holiday beverage (alcoholic or non) for a glass of water. While delicious, eggnog, hot chocolate, and other holiday treats are generally high in sugar and calories. Drinking a fresh cup of cider may also be a healthier alternative holiday beverage option depending on the sugar content. Another thing to consider is that alcohol can lower your inhibitions and increase your appetite. These are two things you want to avoid when trying to adopt healthier eating habits around the holidays. You can indulge, but keep moderation in mind and consider substituting a few of those beverages with water or tea.
5. Incorporate Activity Between Meals
The holidays are often a time for family gatherings. Take advantage of this and encourage some activity to counteract all of the indulgent food choices that are appearing on your counter top. Maybe play a game of football or take a brisk winter walk with a few family members after a big meal. Staying active between holiday meals is a great way to keep your body feeling light. Not to mention, quality family time!
6. Substitute Healthier Food Options
Eating healthier around the holidays doesn’t mean you have to give up delicious food. Substitute a few of your high-calorie dishes with fresh, lower-calorie options. This tip goes hand in hand with tip 3. Whether you are volunteering to cook or bringing a few healthier options to the table, creating equally delicious meals with ingredients that better align with your health goals is a good option for holiday eating. Check out some of these great healthy food substitution ideas are listed below.
- Roasted cauliflower for mashed potatoes
- Roasted sweet potatoes for candied yams
- Fruit salad for pie
- Pumpkin pie for pecan pie
- Fresh green beans for green bean casserole
- Apple cider for spiked eggnog
- Lightly salted edamame for dinner rolls
- Spaghetti squash for pasta
- Nuts and seeds for croutons
- Stevia for sugar
7. Roast Your Food
Roasting food such as veggies and turkey not only saves on prep time, but offers healthier alternatives to frying your food or coating it in dips, dressings, and glazes. This method also brings out the true flavor of vegetables and meats, offering a savory, time-saving, and healthy solution.
8. Start with Soup or Salad
Start the meal with a light course like soup or salad. You and your guests can curb your appetite which will discourage overeating. This also will allow time for the food to register in your stomach (look at tip 2) if you serve it as a preliminary appetizer. For healthy soup options, selecting a broth base vs. a cream base is suggested. Try a vegetable or minestrone variation, even a french onion soup would provide a tasty and healthier option. For salads, consider mixing a light dressing with a vinaigrette instead of using a dense ranch or thousand island. Mixing the dressing in will also discourage applying more than is needed and pushing the caloric intake through the roof.
9. Don’t Fast Before Big Meals
You may think that skipping meals and fasting before a big holiday dinner will help you stay healthy during the holidays, but the exact opposite is true. Curbing your appetite with healthy snacks like nuts or veggies is a much better option before a big meal. Eating steadily will help keep you from overeating because you won’t be ravenous when you see that beautiful holiday meal in front of you.
10. Spend Time with Family Not the Snack Table
It is easy to gravitate towards the snack table when it the display is so tasty looking and eye catching. Instead of hovering and mindlessly grazing, consider selecting a few choice snacks to carry with you while you mingle. Spend time with people you don’t see too often, that is what the holidays are all about. Change your mindset, family is the focus, and the food is just an added bonus, not the star of the show.
11. Savor your Indulgences
We all know how it goes, one holiday cookie leads to three and in the meantime we are casually grazing the sugary sweets at the buffet table. Remember, a few indulgences here and there are fine if you keep it under control. Take a bite of the cookie, but instead of devouring it all in a matter of seconds, chew and savor the flavor. This will be a conscious effort, but will give you more satisfaction than eating three cookies without pause, and experiencing only a fraction of the flavor.
12. Make the Effort
The most important rule of all is to make the effort for yourself and the well being of your body. That could mean learning how to cook food that nourishes you without fillers that are, unfortunately, common in the American diet today. You can read a million articles and make a promise to yourself every day, but without effort and dedication to your health goals, these preliminary actions are meaningless.
With some self-restraint, a few strategic substitution options, and a little activity, you will get the best of both worlds: great food, and a healthier you. You can enjoy the holiday season and still maintain healthy eating habits. Eager to start a healthier lifestyle, but not sure where to begin? MaxLife can help you find a weight-loss program catered specifically to the needs of your body: it’s all about science! Learn more about the MaxLife Weight Loss and Body Balancing Program today!