Thanksgiving is approaching and Christmas is right around the corner, so I want to provide you with a few tips to help you nourish yourself and eat healthy during the holidays.
The holidays are a time for connecting with friends and family. A big part of this connection is through food and eating, so it’s no wonder that many of my patients find it challenging during the holidays to maintain the dietary recommendations that I make during their visits.
Since food is such a big part of holiday celebrations, I want to start by letting you know that it’s ok to eat and it’s also ok to enjoy what you’re eating. That said, my first piece of advice is:
1. Let go of any fear that you have around food and eating
This can be challenging, but as much as you can, try not to focus on the things that you can’t have. The holidays are a time of celebration and joy, so give yourself permission to indulge – have dessert, eat foods that you normally don’t eat, without fear or shame.
Excessive restriction increases the fear and stress that we can sometimes feel around food and eating, which can make it difficult to really connect with your friends and family over the holidays. Allow yourself to indulge, mindfully.
2. Be Present and Aware of What You’re Putting In Your Body
As you are celebrating, maintain a conscious awareness of what you’re eating and drinking.
Notice the way your food looks, tastes, and smells. Slow down and take time to chew your food, really savor and enjoy it.
It’s also helpful to create an awareness around what you’re drinking. It’s ok to enjoy an alcoholic beverage, but also make sure that you stay hydrated by drinking water while you’re celebrating.
No matter what you decide to eat and drink, be aware of and take responsibility for your choices. Don’t wait until you get to the bottom of the bag of chips before noticing that you may have eaten more than you wanted to. Stay aware throughout the eating experience.
3. Make and Bring Healthy Foods to Parties and Gatherings
If you’ve ever arrived at a party, examined the food options, and felt like there was nothing there you could eat, this tip is for you!
You can decrease some of the stress that arises when you’re trying to eat healthy during the holidays, by bringing a healthy dish that meets your dietary needs. Not only will you ensure that you have something healthy that you can eat, but you might even convince your family and friends that healthy and delicious can co-exist during the holidays!
Personally, gluten and dairy don’t work well for my body, so I always make a few dishes to take along with me to holiday parties and celebrations. When I first started this practice, I was considered an oddball, but now, many of my family and friends are eating the same way that I eat, so we can all enjoy healthy, gluten-free, dairy-free, delicious foods together.
4. Eat at Regular Intervals Throughout the Day
It’s easy to get swept up in the hectic nature of holiday preparation and forget to eat or feel like there isn’t enough time to stop what we’re doing to eat.
We can get so busy grocery shopping, buying gifts, and traveling that by the time we sit down to eat, we’re depleted and ravenous.
Eating when we’re in this state makes it much harder to make healthy food choices since we’re depleted calorically, it’s not unusual in these instances to choose foods that are convenient or quick and easy to prepare. Unfortunately, these aren’t always the best for our bodies.
If you are going to be out traveling or running errands, put a few healthy snacks in your bag or pack a healthy lunch, so you have access to nourishing, healthy food when you need it. This will make it much easier to eat healthy during the holidays.
5. Consume Alcohol Only After You’ve Had a Meal, Not Before
Alcohol can be taxing on the liver, which can eventually lead to insomnia and skin issues, like acne. With this in mind, it’s important to limit the amount of alcohol that you consume during the holidays.
Also, healthy foods will provide you with much more nourishment than alcohol, so give it more of a priority than eggnog and other alcoholic beverages.
6. Eat Your Food on a Small Plate
During the holidays, we tend to overeat. You may be able to avoid this by eating from an appetizer plate, instead of a bigger entree plate. A smaller plate holds less food, making you less likely to take more food than you need to feel satisfied, especially if you are eating slowly, chewing your food well, and savoring each bite.
No matter what plate size you choose, however, try to fill most of your plate with healthy foods, like green leafy vegetables, as much as possible.
7. Move Your Body
Just as it can be challenging to eat healthy during the holidays, it can also be a challenge to maintain our movement and exercise routines. However, movement is essential, especially if we are eating foods that are higher in calories, fat, and sugar.
If you’re struggling to find time for movement during the holidays, make it a family affair! Invite your family members to take a 20-minute walk with you after a meal.
Remember, the holidays are about connection and we can connect with and without food.
To ensure that you eat healthy during the holidays, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite healthy holiday recipes in the next blog post of this series. If you’ve missed any of my previous blog posts on maintaining your health during the holidays, you can check them out here.