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Healthy Eating Through the Holidays: 10 Tips

Healthy eating during holiday festivities is just plain hard for a lot of folks. The temptations to overindulge are great. Comfort foods surround us. Calorie-rich, once-a-year treats come round at every party. For many of us, it’s cold outside, and warm goodies add an extra pull.

With some planning, you can enjoy the splendors of holiday eating, though maybe not as much as you’d like! Whether hosting or hanging out, here are tips for healthy holiday feasting, without any regret.

1. Bring the health food. If you’re headed to a party, be the one to offer a nutritious dish. You can have a healthy portion of your contribution before nibbling on a few heavier items. Some ideas include hummus with vegetables, a bean or whole-grain salad, a roasted vegetable platter, and vegetable sushi.

2. Quench your thirst before you dig in. When we’re thirsty, our body signals us to drink and eat to obtain water. Having a full glass of water before eating helps to quench any thirst first, and adds a mild feeling of fullness to the stomach, helping to tell the body you’ve had enough sooner.

3. Offer veggies with those dips, in place of chips. Replacing chips with carrot and celery sticks, pieces of broccoli and cauliflower, and other veggies can cut calories and add color and nutrition to your spread.

4. Step away from the buffet. If there is a table (or tables) of food at your next gathering, catch up with friends and family out of arm’s reach, or even view, of the food. This will help quell temptation. When hosting, try passed hors d’ouevres rather than a buffet table, because people generally eat fewer appetizers this way. Can’t afford a wait staff? Teens and tweens can make great passers and may offer you a better deal.

5. Save up for your favorite holiday foods. If you are looking forward to grandma’s legendary pumpkin pie or some other decadent holiday treat, plan it into your spending – your calorie allowance, that is. Skip the appetizers, have a light dinner with plenty of veggies, drink water instead of nogs or other calorie-heavy drinks, then enjoy grandma’s pie without the guilt.

6. Don’t starve yourself before parties. You might think that denying your hunger before a party will help you eat less, but by letting yourself get really hungry, you are more likely to overeat when you get to the food. If you’re headed to a party later and won’t be eating for a while, go ahead and eat something small and healthy to keep your spirits high and your energy level up.

7. Give your traditional holiday dishes a makeover. Look for versions of your favorite dishes with reduced-fat, salt, and sugar. You may be surprised at how tasty some of these dishes can be! The Mayo Clinic also offers some great tips for cutting sugar, sodium, and fat from your recipes – just follow this link.

8. Look for ways to add physical activity into your days. Keep moving through the holiday season and plan for extra physical activity to balance out extra eating. Every little bit helps – even parking far away from your destination so you have to walk more, or taking the stairs whenever possible.

9. Beware of drinks with hidden calories. Cocktails, nogs, punch, spiked coffees, etc., all pack in a good helping of calories and are easy to consume. Go for calorie-free drinks whenever possible – otherwise, follow tip 5 above, and budget in your drinks.

10. Skip the guilt. Many of us fall easy prey to the all-or-nothing mentality, giving up completely when we deviate from our well-intentioned eating plan. Well, here’s your pass – leave that guilt at home, or chuck it into the garbage, it’s not helpful. If you do indulge in one too many of your favorite treat, take a breath, and get back to your plan with the next meal. And don’t forget you can add in extra exercise.

And, since it’s the time for giving, I’d like to offer up one more tip: Practice stress relief techniques. The holiday season can be stressful for many, leading to stress-eating. A focus on things that help reduce your level of stress may also help curb associated cravings.

Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season!



About the Author:

Bridgette Collado

 Bridgette Collado, MA, RD, is a health communication consultant and registered dietitian who writes for Health Dialog. As a passionate explorer of the intersection of health and technology, she advises health care and wellness companies, as well as public health organizations, on design and evaluation of all types of health communication, including new media. Her focus areas include gaming for health, user experience design, and social media. Follow Bridgette on Twitter:www.twitter.com/bcollado.