Healthy Holidays: 5 Ways to Stay on Track

Article posted in: Nutrition
healthy holidays

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you think about all the foods that will tempt you this holiday season. While it’s true you can’t—and shouldn’t—eat like you used to, you can enjoy the foods you love in moderation. In fact, indulging is the best way to prevent binging and ensure long-term success, says Registered Dietitian Courtney McCormick. “I recommend including healthier options in your diet about 80-90% of the time and treating yourself 10-20% of the time,” she says. With just a few simple suggestions like this one, you are sure to have the healthy holidays you are looking for.

Now that you know a small slice of grandma’s apple pie won’t lead you completely astray from your hope for healthy holidays, we’ve got a few more ideas on how you can maintain your diet without straying off track.

Check out five ways to stay on track this season & reach the ultimate, healthy holidays:

1. Eat Before You “Eat.”

eat before you eat

There is an inverse association between weight and eating frequency, says Harvard Health. The heavier a person is, the less often they eat. Research suggests people of normal weight and formerly obese people maintain weight by eating four times a day compared with obese people. If your family eats their holiday dinner at lunchtime, don’t skip breakfast or your mid-morning snack. If the big meal is served around dinnertime, eat plenty of nutritious, high-fiber foods all throughout the day. Pretend the holiday is like any other day. If you go into dinner starving, you’ll most certainly overeat. Your goal is to leave the table “unstuffed.”

2. Fit in Some Exercise.


You already know that exercise helps you lose weight. You probably already know that exercise also combats serious health conditions and diseases. You hopefully also know that exercise improves mood and boosts energy. But you may not know that exercise might also help curb hunger. A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Physiology revealed that vigorous exercise may suppress a key hunger hormone for up to 30 minutes after workouts and can increase the levels of an appetite-suppressing hormone for as long as three hours after exercise. Bottom line? It certainly won’t hurt you to fit in a little cardio before turkey time. If your gym is closed because of the holiday, hop on your bike, take the dog on a long walk or stream a workout video.

3. Watch Your Portions.


Easier said than done, right? Not if you treat dinner like any other meal. Seriously—try and build your plate just as you normally would. Incorporate lean proteins, veggies, good carbs and healthy fats into your meal. And, consider using a salad plate instead of a traditional dinner plate. If you decide you really want a glass of wine or beer, have one and then switch to water. If you’d rather have dessert, choose the healthiest option and make it small.

4. BYO Food.

Brussel Sprouts

So what if mom’s menu includes foods that are slathered in gravy or cheese? Tell her you’ll be bringing your favorite healthy veggie dish to share with the entire family, so everyone experiences healthy holidays this year. As long as it won’t cause mutiny, you could even request that she serve sauces on the side so you’re only getting the goods—not the extra calories. If you’re cooking the meal, you can easily sneak some cauliflower in with the mashed potatoes or opt for recipes like roasted Brussels sprouts instead of green bean casserole. When it comes to dessert, consider having apple slices instead of apple pie.

5. Slow Down.

slow eating

Dr. Jan Chozen Bays in her book, Mindful Eating, says our bodies get more nutrition out of less food if we chew it thoroughly. And, we’re more likely to “hear” appestat hormones when they tell us we’re full if we eat more slowly. Consider this: In a 2006 North American Association for the Study of Obesity study, nutritionists offered college-aged women a big plate of pasta. When the women were told to eat quickly, they consumed 646 calories in nine minutes. When told to pause between bites and chew each mouthful 15 to 20 times, they consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes. The group who ate more slowly rated themselves as less hungry and more satisfied after the meal and they also reported enjoying the meal more than the group who gobbled.