How to Eat Healthy during the Holidays?
Published Dec 23, 2023 • By Somya Pokharna
The holiday season is all about delicious food and unforgettable moments with loved ones, but it's easy to get carried away and veer off our balanced eating habits during this time. However, indulging in festive treats doesn't have to lead to guilt or sacrificing the pleasure of enjoying them. By adopting clever eating and cooking strategies, you can savor the festivities while prioritizing your well-being.
So, how to continue eating healthy during the festive season?
Dig into this article to find out!
Why is healthy eating important during the holidays?
Trying to eat healthy during the holiday season requires considerable self-discipline, yet it is essential for preserving our general wellbeing amid the festive atmosphere. With an abundance of tempting feasts and treats, adhering to a balanced diet can help sustain energy levels and support the body's resilience. It is also important to consistently consume foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients to bolster the immune system and ward off seasonal illnesses that often coincide with this period. Furthermore, prioritizing healthy eating habits helps manage weight and prevents potential chronic condition flare-ups or feelings of discomfort.
Making mindful food choices during festivities can nurture the body, sustain energy levels, and help us partake in the joys of the season while taking care of our health and vitality.
What are the common challenges to eating healthy during this time?
People face many obstacles when trying to eat healthily during festive seasons. Social gatherings and parties often present a temptation, making it hard to resist the array of traditional high-calorie dishes and sweets and leading to overeating or indulging in foods typically avoided.
Time constraints and busy schedules during the holiday rush may make it challenging to prioritize meal planning and cooking nutritious meals. The stress and hustle and bustle of the season might also result in a reliance on convenient, but often less healthy, fast-food options or pre-packaged meals.
All these factors combined create a perfect storm that makes it challenging to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet throughout the festive season.
How to eat healthier during the holidays?
By integrating planning techniques and portion control strategies, you can enjoy a balance of festive dishes while promoting healthier eating habits during the holiday season:
Be kind to yourself
Managing chronic illnesses can be challenging, especially during the holidays. Give yourself grace and remember that it's okay to indulge occasionally. If a slip-up does happen, try to get back on track with the very next meal. The key is balance and moderation.
Maintain your eating schedule
Stick to your regular eating schedule to maintain steady blood sugar levels. If your mealtime is delayed, have a small snack at your usual mealtime and reduce your portion during the delayed meal.
Do not skip meals
Skipping meals earlier in the day will make you more likely to overeat at dinner. Also, avoid heading out on an empty stomach before attending an event or going shopping. Have a nutritious snack beforehand, combining complex carbohydrates with proteins and unsaturated fats, such as apple slices with peanut butter or a turkey and cheese slice on whole-wheat pita bread. By doing so, you'll curb the temptation to indulge excessively in treats or snacks while out.
Communicate your dietary needs
Don’t hesitate to talk to your loved ones about your dietary needs. Having their understanding and support can make navigating festive meals easier.
Bring a healthy dish to share
If you're attending a party but have dietary restrictions or specific health needs, plan your meals accordingly. Offer to bring a dish that fits your dietary requirements, ensuring there's something you can enjoy guilt-free.
Start with the healthy stuff
Begin your meal with fruits and vegetables to curb your hunger. These serve as excellent sides or mains, provided they aren't laden with rich sauces or butter. Adding lean proteins and whole grains to the mix can help maintain a well-rounded diet while enjoying festive meals.
Consume your meals slowly, leisurely and mindfully. Your brain requires approximately 20 minutes to register the sensation of fullness of the stomach. Upon completing your initial serving, consider pausing for a 10-minute break before going for seconds. Reassess your hunger levels, and you might discover that you are already satisfied or only desire a small additional portion.
Drink a lot of water
Make sure to stay hydrated, as it's common to overlook drinking water amid the bustle of this period. Drinking water is essential for regulating appetite and digestion.
Limit alcohol consumption
Avoid excessive alcohol intake and when opting for an alcoholic beverage, accompany it with food to mitigate its effects. Alcohol can stimulate your appetite and reduce your ability to regulate food intake. It also has the potential to decrease blood sugar levels and may interfere with medications for diabetes.
Make self-care a priority
The festive season can be overwhelming, leading to stress, which may impact your health. Prioritize self-care, get enough rest, and manage stress levels to support your overall well-being.
Remember, the holidays are about more than just food. Focus on spending quality time with loved ones, creating memories, and embracing the joyous moments.
How to stay physically active during the holiday season?
Staying physically active during the holiday season is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being. Here's how to incorporate physical activity into holiday festivities:
- Schedule workouts: Plan exercise sessions into your daily schedule, treating them as non-negotiable appointments.
- Create festive workouts: Incorporate holiday-themed workouts like a winter walk, ice skating, dancing to seasonal music, or participating in charity runs/walks.
- Family activities: Encourage family involvement in physical activities, such as going for a group walk after meals or playing outdoor games together.
- Stay active while traveling: If traveling, explore new surroundings by walking, hiking, or trying activities specific to the destination.
- Use workout apps or videos: Utilize fitness apps or online workout videos for guidance and motivation, especially when gym access is limited.
- Prioritize movement: Look for opportunities to move more throughout the day, such as taking the stairs, parking farther away, or doing household chores actively.
- Set realistic goals: Establish achievable fitness goals during the holidays, keeping in mind the potential disruptions to routine.
- Enjoy active traditions: Engage in active holiday traditions, such as building snowmen, sledding, or volunteering for community activities.
While navigating the holiday season, the importance of healthy eating and reconciling indulgence with nourishment becomes evident. This can not only sustain energy levels but also fortify the immune system amidst the festive cheer.
However, balance is key. After all, holidays are a time to celebrate and cherish moments with loved ones. Therefore, rather than introducing stress, remember to savor these moments. If a dietary slip occurs, swiftly return to healthy eating with the next meal. Ultimately, the holidays are about sharing joy with family and friends, so let's embrace the spirit without unnecessary pressure and relish the season's warmth.
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5 Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays, CDC
12 tips for holiday eating, Harvard Health
Healthy Holiday Foods and Fun, NIH News in Health
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Tips to celebrate without sabotaging, Mayo Clinic Health System
Five Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays, U.S. Department of Agriculture
8 easy tips for healthy holiday eating, UC Davis Health
Healthy Eating Habits for the Holidays, Northwestern Medicine
Daily tips to make this holiday season Healthy for Good, American Heart Association