From seeing twinkling lights to sipping hot chocolate and decorating cookies, the holiday season has many traditions. Extra calories can sneak up on you during this time of year, but weight gain can be avoided by following a few simple strategies.
This blog from 305 West End Assisted Living provides six healthy eating strategies to help you successfully navigate this season’s holiday parties and get-togethers.
1. Eat a Snack Beforehand
Don’t skip meals to prepare for your holiday feast. Instead, have a healthy breakfast earlier in the day. If you’d rather have a snack instead of breakfast, try pairing a complex carbohydrate with a healthy fat, like an apple and almond butter. You will be ready to eat when you arrive, but not ravenous.
2. Be Aware of Mindless Eating
Another strategy is to avoid the food table to prevent mindless snacking. Practice being mindful or more aware of your body’s cues to avoid eating out of habit or for emotional reasons.
Harvard Health recommends chewing a piece of gum or a mint to stop yourself from nibbling before your meal. If you are prone to eating while mingling with your friends or relatives, take advantage of the fruit and veggie tray before diving into some heartier holiday options.
3. Bring a Healthy Dish
There’s one way to ensure healthy options at the table — bring your own. Opt for a veggie-based dish or one that isn’t heavy with saturated fats.
Need an idea or want to try out a new recipe? Browse this list in our blog featuring recipes full of winter fruits and vegetables, including chunky borscht, skillet phyllo pie, curried butternut squash and apple soup, and more.
4. Be Observant of What’s on the Table
Before you start piling food on your plate, take a walk around the food table and observe what is available. Prioritize your favorites instead of mindlessly filling your plate.
Using a smaller plate, like a salad plate, can also help control your portions and will serve as a good reminder when it’s time to stop.
5. Take a Walk
A stroll around the block is an opportunity to look at holiday decorations while catching up with relatives you may only see a few times a year. Even better, make it a family tradition so you can look forward to that after-meal walk year after year.
6. Savor the Favorites
At the end of the day, the holiday season is about savoring time spent with friends and family, which includes food. If pie is your favorite, the CDC suggests choosing a smaller portion and going with pumpkin over pecan.
But if pecan pie is your favorite or you can’t resist the smell of sugar cookies, then enjoy sweets in moderation.
If you do happen to overindulge this holiday season, don’t fret. The holidays only happen a few times a year — and one big meal isn’t going to hurt your healthy eating efforts.
Instead, regroup and focus on returning to healthy eating and exercising. Consult your physician for specific guidance, questions, or concerns.
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This blog was originally published in 2019. It was updated in November 2023.