December 10, 2021

Healthier Holiday Eating

General Health

Well… the holidays are here and that means the hustle and bustle, lights and holiday jingles and of course, the get-togethers filled with delicious food.

I feel it necessary to be a bit sensitive around the topic of holiday eating, especially when we put the word “Healthy” or “Healthier” in front of it. I look back at some of my “younger” blogs and while some of my suggestions have changed (ok, don’t be the person to change Great Grandma’s famous family recipe in the name of health…just don’t), there are still a bunch of tips and tricks you can use at your holiday get togethers to still enjoy your favorite holiday fare, while keeping your wellness goals in mind too.

Here are my 5 favorite tips and tricks to incorporate this holiday seasons:

Pick your potluck option:
In the Midwest, you offer to bring a dish to pass at 99.9% of most gatherings because, well…we’re the Midwest, it’s what we do. The holidays are no exception. If you’re in charge of a super-secret family recipe that is served once a year, then this may not apply to you (see above—Great Grandma), but if you are asked to bring something in a ‘genre’, such as an appetizer or dessert, you can get a little creative. Many recipes can be lightened up by incorporating substitutions or a combination of healthy/less-healthy ingredients without sacrificing flavor or texture. Additionally, there are SO, so, so many awesome healthy recipes out there that can trick even the pickiest of eaters.

A few ideas/suggestions are:
Lower sodium/sugar/fat options (*just be sure the manufacturer didn’t add one of the others while removing one)
Swapping Greek yogurt for sour cream
Pick a recipe with fruits/vegetables
Use whole grain products (pasta/rice/grains) versus less-fiber-rich white products
Baking—sub in unsweetened applesauce or a puree for sweetness instead of the excess sugar

Stave away the starvation:
If my ‘calorie math’ and thought process serves me correctly, if I don’t eat breakfast or lunch before an evening holiday get together, then I have ALL of the day’s calories to consume in one meal and I won’t feel as bad…right? While it seems to make sense, more times than not we become a little ravenous or ‘hangry’ and we make a direct beeline for the hor dourves table at the party as soon as we’ve arrived, and well, now you’ve mindlessly eaten 600 calories in Chex Mix and 700 calories on cocktail weinies (or is that just my husband) before the main meal has started. Still eating during the day, but maybe going a bit lighter or focusing on good nutrition with lean protein, fiber and whole-grain carbs can help you feel more in control and ready to stick with your wellness plans as you arrive at the party, and less like you need to chew off your arm.

Be strategic on booze:
We have a whole week dedicated to the holiday bubbles and beer, so I won’t touch on this topic too much, but it IS an important one. Alcohol is a slippery slope when you are trying to make healthy choices and lifestyle changes. The recommended daily amount of alcohol for women is 1 beverage and for men is 2 beverages (note: 1 beverage is 5oz of wine, 1.5 spirits and 12oz of <5% ABV) and if you exceed this, you not only may say something you will regret the next day to your in-laws or the family member that posts too much on social media, but you may also be packing on extra calories quickly and give you a lower inhibition with making healthier eating choices and other choices involving safety, such as driving while drinking. Keep alcohol intake to a minimum and if you are going to have a beverage or two, make it count by sipping slowly and enjoying, and, of course—have a designated driver.

Mostly focus on moderation:
The holidays and get-together all center around food, family and fun, and let’s be real, the food is usually pretty darn awesome. Don’t for one second think I’m going to tell you to give up your favorites, but maybe, you can think differently about the food you’re going to eat and make teeny tiny changes, such as taking a smaller portion of your favorites and sticking to one round of food instead of two or three. Other strategies to keep some of the focus off of food includes:

Taking sips of water or your beverage in-between bites:
Using a smaller plate. I have tried this and it honestly turned into an vertical game of Tetris, but just because it didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it may not be a great option for you!

Slowing down and enjoying the one-a-year delicacies. Your stomach and brain need about 20 minutes to connect that you’re full and if you eat too fast, you bypass the signal and may overeat.
Focus on the conversation, the family/friends around you and the excitement and joys of the day.

Time to get back on track:
The day after a holiday may leave you feeling a little bloated, tired, and downtrodden if you didn’t stick to your plans of being healthier—and I’m here to tell you IT’S OK! Sure, the scale may be a bit up, your pants a bit tighter and your fingers are harder to bend from the sodium intake, BUT, it’s one day and you have another day to make choices and get back on track.

Looking at the holiday season as a whole…it’s about 6 weeks or 42 days, right? Let’s say out of those 42 days you have holiday parties on 7 of those days (this may be higher or lower, depending on your calendar), and if you enjoy yourself on those 7 days and get back on track the other days, that is 35 days, or 80%, that you are focusing on your wellness goals. That’s pretty darn good, and, you’ll still feel like you’re LIVING! I hear too many times individuals that say “well, I’m just going to wait until January 1st”—while I like the analogy of a clean, fresh start, to be able to have 30-35ish days to really be focusing on you and going into a new year, that’s a powerful base and start!

Remember, wellness and lifestyle changes are not about sudden changes—it’s about gradual incorporation of healthy habits that are sustainable and don’t leave you feeling deprived, and this could be your year of going into a new, fresh start of 2022 with a solid plan, base and sense of confidence.

You got this! Until next time.