Holiday Nutrition Hacks

5 Tips for a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season

Pass the figgy pudding and a glass of eggnog – the holidays are here, and that means lots of delicious goodies are headed your way. Unfortunately for some, this time of year can be stressful, especially those who are health-conscious or trying to watch their weight. Others may find themselves overindulging during the holidays year after year, which isn’t exactly the healthiest approach either.

So, how can you approach holiday eating in a healthy way? The good news is that there’s no reason to deprive yourself of your favorite foods or feel guilty about going back for seconds. With the following tips, you can relax and enjoy every family gathering, office party, and social event – food and all!

1. Start your morning with a balanced breakfast.

illustration of family eating christmas dinner together

If you’re someone who likes to “save their calories” for the big holiday meal, you may want to rethink your strategy. When you go into a meal completely ravenous, you increase your chances of overeating, which can cause nausea, indigestion, or just general discomfort. The best strategy leading up to a holiday meal is to honor your hunger throughout the day, which for most of us means eating breakfast. Keep in mind that a balanced breakfast includes fiber, protein, and healthy fats – for example, a bowl of oatmeal topped with almonds and blueberries – which will keep you full and help you maintain stable blood sugar levels.

2. Include some fruits and vegetables.

We are certainly not advocating you skip the turkey and dressing this holiday season. However, when you make room for fruits and veggies, you’re not only nourishing your body, you’re also adding some vibrant color to your holiday plate. Incorporating in-season produce, such as kale salads, roasted Brussels sprouts, and even a lightened-up sweet potato casserole, is a great way to ensure a healthier, more flavorful meal. You might also consider bringing a fruit tray or festive salad to your next holiday function, which is often a welcome addition among the many heavy, butter-laden dishes. This way, you’ll have access to something fresh, and the other party-goers will likely thank you.

3. Slow down.

You’ve waited all year long for Christmas dinner, so there’s no need to shovel the food into your mouth as quickly as possible. Take small bites in order to truly savor and taste your meal, and allow yourself to pause between bites (setting down the utensils can help with this). Similarly, you may want to take a breather before adding seconds to your plate. Waiting just 10 to 15 minutes after you’ve finished your meal can give your body’s satiety signals time to reach your brain. Chat with your aunt, drink some water, then check back in with your appetite. If you find you still want another portion of mac and cheese, go for it!

4. Don’t forget to hydrate.

This simple tip is an important reminder any time of year, but especially during the holidays when alcohol flows freely and various festivities have you constantly on the go. It’s often the case that when you feel hungry, your body is really asking for water. Drinking a glass (or two) of water before a holiday meal can go a long way in helping you distinguish hunger and thirst, and as a result, keep you from overeating. Even better, set a series of alarms on your phone to remind you to sip liberally throughout the day. And, since alcohol use is directly correlated to dehydration, be sure to limit your consumption and always drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks.

5. Remember what this season is really about.

Food is an integral part of the holidays – it wouldn’t be Christmas without cookie baking, after all. But shifting your focus to other aspects of the season, such as quality time spent with loved ones, will help create fond memories for years to come. Over the next several weeks, make plans to catch a movie, explore a hiking trail, go ice skating, or start a new family tradition. Catch up with an old friend, laugh, and spread holiday cheer. When you direct your attention toward fun, you’ll find yourself thinking a lot less about food.

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