Healthy Holiday Eating Guide
The holiday season is the best time of the year – getting to celebrate with family and friends and getting a much needed break from work. Unfortunately, the holidays can also become stressful with last minute shopping, traveling, gifted baked desserts, and endless amounts of social gatherings that all center around food. Having a plan to stick to healthier habits around the holidays will allow you to enjoy the season while maintaining your health. Here’s 7 healthy habits to keep during the holidays.
Don’t Skip Meals
Skipping meals to “save” your calories for the main course is a common eating trend during holidays. Instead of “saving room” for your meal, be sure to consume your typical meals around the main course for that day, even if it’s a smaller portion. Eating before the celebratory meal time will decrease your chances of arriving too hungry and overeating.
During the holidays, it may seem like we are constantly around a full table of appetizers and desserts. Between these desserts, leftovers and a stocked fridge and pantry, it becomes easy to graze and snack throughout the day. Limit this by sticking to your normal routine of meals and a few dedicated snacks. This way you aren’t mindlessly eating throughout the day, or month!
Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Savor your favorite holiday dishes while sticking to smaller portions. Fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit, a quarter of it with mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, and a quarter of it with turkey, ham, or whichever protein source you prefer. It’s completely fine to indulge in dessert! I recommend choosing your favorite one, rather than trying several.
Don’t restrict yourself from foods you love. Instead, have these foods and avoid wasting room on your plate with extra foods you know are not your favorites. If there are multiple dishes you're wanting to try, take them home for leftovers and spread it out throughout the week. You don't need to try all 10 side dishes in one day!
Make Simple Substitutions
There are many ways to reduce saturated fat, sugar, and excess calories in holiday recipes while still keeping tradition. Check out my chart for healthy recipe substitutions. Check out my recipe page to see healthy options for side dishes, including sweet potato casserole and parsley mashed potatoes. Try these pumpkin spice energy balls for a festive appetizer. When it comes to the turkey, choose white meat turkey, and opt for whole grain rolls over white. For dessert, you could try these pumpkin bread muffins or pumpkin pie bars.
Limit Intake of High Calorie Beverages
Holiday meals typically pair with alcohol or sugar sweetened beverages. Alcohol, along with common mixers, quickly increase your total intake of calories. Rather than restricting yourself completely, just be mindful about how much alcohol you drink. Recommendations are for men to consume 2 or less alcoholic beverages per day, and women 1 or less alcoholic beverages per day. Likewise, sugar sweetened beverages such as soda or eggnog also increase your calorie intake. On top of additional caloric intake, excessive consumption of these drinks can increase inflammation and potentially weaken immune function.
Keep Physically Active
Keeping exercise as a priority around the holidays not only is good for your overall mental and physical health, but also balances out the potential increase in calorie intake. Exercising is a great way to get you out of the kitchen and moving. Other benefits to exercise include its ability to decrease stress, improve your quality of sleep, and increase your quality of life. You could participate in a local Turkey Trot walk/run, or go on a walk with family.
Take Time to Recover
Hopefully the holiday season means some time off from work or training. With additional time, holidays are a great opportunity to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. To meet your sleep needs, it is recommended for adults to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Sufficient sleep allows your body to fully recover, support your immune system, and support your overall health.