Eating healthy during the holidays can be a challenge. And avoiding weight gain during the holidays can be an even bigger obstacle to navigate. This time of year can undermine all of your healthy lifestyle habits if you’re not careful. Between the temptation for a second helping of Thanksgiving dinner and an extra slice of pumpkin pie (topped with ice cream, of course), you might wonder if maintaining healthy eating habits during the holidays is really possible.
Figures vary, but the consensus is that the average person gains from one to a few pounds during the holidays. And people who are already overweight are likely to gain more, ranging from 5 to 7 pounds. Over the years these pounds can accumulate elevating one’s risk of prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
As you may suspect the most common causes of this excess weight gain during the holidays are overeating, lack of exercise, and stress.
But with some smart planning, you can avoid the weight gain trap and the detrimental health conditions that come with it. Keep reading to learn our top 15 tips for eating healthy during the holidays.
1. Stay Hydrated
Hydration is your ally as you work on eating healthy during the holidays. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help keep your sugar cravings at bay and prevent overeating.
2. Bring Your Own Treats
Bring your own treats or desserts to the party. Some good choices are 70% dark chocolate bites, homemade trail mix bars, or a small serving of nuts.
3. Create Healthy Versions of Your Holiday Favorites
Makeover your holiday favorites by creating a healthier version. You can do this by making smart swaps to the ingredients, modifying the preparation method, or reducing portion sizes.
4. Beware of Liquid Calories
Whether they contain alcohol or not, holiday drinks can be packed with excess calories, carbs, and sugar. You may be eagerly awaiting the announcement that your favorite Pumpkin Spice Latte is available. And you should enjoy it; in moderation, not every day.
5. Eat Regularly
Eat smaller, balanced meals throughout the day. The busy holiday season can create the perfect storm for skipping meals and then over-indulging. Eat regularly to help keep your blood sugar level and your appetite stable throughout the day.
6. Eat Real Food First
If you’re attending a holiday party try to add healthy options to your plate first. Choose vegetables and fruit whenever they are available and beware of the method used to prepare them. Not all kale slaws are created equal.
7. Stick to Your Routines for Eating Healthy During the Holidays
During the holidays, you may relax some of your routines. After all, the holiday season creates an air of spontaneity causing you to throw caution to the wind and make impulsive decisions. But those decisions may not align with your goals for weight loss or weight management.
So instead, strive to maintain your healthy eating routines during the holidays. Maintain structure in your meal prep and planning routine, bedtime routine, and your workout routine. If these have become a regular part of your life, continue to do so during the holidays. Or work on creating these new, healthy habits now.
8. Check Your Fullness-o-meter
Although food is plentiful during the holidays, all of it does not have to be eaten. Engage in mindful eating strategies to help curb overeating. Be aware of how much you’re eating, your pace of eating, and how full you’re feeling. This will help you to regulate whether you really need an extra bite, serving or piece of pie. A good level of “fullness” is a 7 on a scale of 0 to 10, where “0” is hunger pangs or starving and “10” is when your tummy is bursting at the seams.
9. Bring a Healthy Dish to Share
Take an active role in planning and preparing for this year’s potluck. Rather than allowing others to determine what served, contribute your own healthy version of a family favorite.
10. Balance Your Plate
Eating healthy during the holidays and year-round really boils down to building a balanced plate. You can easily do this by focusing on colors. Your plate should have less white stuff (such as white potatoes, pastas, and breads) and more colorful foods, especially green.
Build a healthy plate during the holidays by following these steps: fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit first. Beware of dishes like that creamy green casserole, though. Next, fill the other half of your plate with equal parts of lean protein and healthy whole grains. Easy peasy.
11. Don’t Skip Meals
Skipping meals might sound like a good plan to avoid weight gain during the holidays. In theory, you’re “saving” calories for later in the day when you’ll be feasting on holiday fare. However, this strategy can actually sabotage your healthy eating goals.
Skipping meals can throw your blood sugar and waistline out of whack.
12. Fill Up on Fiber Before You Go Out
fiber adds bulk to your diet and makes you feel full faster and longer. It can be a key ingredient to help you control your weight. According to MedlinePlus, most Americans don’t eat enough dietary fiber. And I would imagine that this is especially true during the holidays. But having a fiber-rich snack or meal before you go to a holiday party can help to fill you up so you will not be ravenous when you arrive. Some options include a salad, some fresh fruit, or a bowl of oatmeal.
13. Keep Healthy Snacks at Work
Halloween tends to be the icebreaker for a stream of holiday treats at the office. Prepare yourself by keeping your own stash of healthy snacks at work.
14. Shop with a Plan
Don’t let the supermarket sabotage your healthy eating during the holidays. Make a plan and list, and head to the grocery store with a confident plan for eating healthy. A good way to ensure that you fill your basket with healthier options is to shop from the perimeter of the store where you will find more of the healthier, unprocessed foods.
15. Don’t Eat Out of Obligation
You may feel coerced into eating certain foods or desserts during the holidays. Even though there may be certain holiday traditions that others have – like gifting you a holiday fruitcake every year – you don’t have to feel compelled to consume these items if you’d rather not. Instead, be mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth. When you go out, choose the foods or desserts that are your absolute favorites rather than thinking you have to eat or sample everything on display.