The holiday season is an exciting time — from catching up with family and friends to delicious eats and giving thanks. But it can also be a stressful time. Staying healthy during the holidays (and throughout the year) goes beyond tracking numbers on a scale. Checking in with your body and mind — focusing on self-care — is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Grace is more than something –you say before eating
Offer grace to someone new this holiday season: yourself. Your eating will not be perfect. It’s OK to indulge in holiday favorites and spend the day curled up in front of the fire. Lingering in guilt over every cookie you eat is not healthy and can actually lead to worse behaviors like overeating. Be fair to yourself!
Drop the “all-or-nothing” mentality
You can go for a run, drink a green smoothie and eat apple pie all in one day. Healthy eating doesn’t mean a week of abstinence followed by a week-long binge. The people who have the best success reaching their health goals have a balanced, realistic approach. Extending the holiday season into multiple days of poor eating will leave you feeling drained.
Pick the dishes you truly enjoy
Is Grandma’s sweet potato pie something you look forward to every year? Have a slice. Is there another dish on the table you could take or leave? Then leave it. Have the foods you truly enjoy, and only those. Not only will you have a better experience, but it can save you from overeating. As you look at those dishes you’re skipping, just remember that those “holiday” dishes are available anytime you feel like making them. Thwart the fear of not having a holiday dish by making plans to make it the next month.
Build a balanced tablescape
If plates need to have a balance of fruit, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fat, then tables do, too. Hosts should include dishes that feature each of these groups. If you’re bringing something to a party, bring a vegetable dish. They are often left off or limited in table planning. And when making your plate, start with the vegetables to keep from running out of room on the plate and skipping the veggies entirely.
Embrace the flavors of the season
It’s easy to add fresh fruits and vegetables to meals when there’s fresh, seasonal produce to inspire you. Roast some sliced delicata squash with olive oil, salt and pepper for a hearty side dish that bridges fall and winter. For a tasty dessert, combine sliced apples, lemon juice and cinnamon in a slow cooker to make homemade applesauce (add water for moisture!). Spruce up your holiday beverage or morning yogurt with colorful pomegranate seeds. Buying in-season produce can lead to trying new foods at their very best — when they’re freshest and most flavorful. You’ll also save money.
Don’t be fooled into overeating
At any party, standing around the appetizer or snack table just leads to, well, snacking. Instead of mindlessly munching, put your food on a plate and walk away. Use the smallest plate available and never “save up calories” by fasting all day. Instead, try to slow your eating pace. If you can, pace yourself with the slowest eater at the table or put your fork down between bites. Buying this extra time makes you conscious of your body and more likely to know exactly when you’ve had enough.
Keep snacks on hand
Hunger can strike at any moment, especially when traveling, shopping or working. Packing a snack in your bag before you’re hungry makes it easy to choose something that will actually do the job. Planning and being prepared is half the battle when it comes to balanced snacking. Simple snacks like nuts, seeds, whole fruit or granola bars are easy to stash in your bag or your car.
Having a healthy holiday season goes beyond swapping in cauliflower mashed potatoes or running a turkey trot. It is about recognizing what you need to be your best self. Some days, that might mean prepping your lunches to save you time and stress. Other days, it may mean carving out some alone time before the holiday festivities begin. Many of us, especially parents, focus so much on tending to others that we often forget to care for ourselves. Show yourself some love this holiday season by taking care of your body and your mind.
Marissa Donovan, MS, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food.