Healthy Eater’s Holiday Survival Guide

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Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday weight gain is a common problem for almost everyone. It’s an even bigger issue for anyone on their weight loss journey. It’s a season full of some of the best tasting food you’ll have all year. In many households unhealthy ingredients like butter, sugar and sour cream are being overused like it’s nothing and the “it’s the Holidays” mentality has taken over.

It’s way too easy to slip back into old habits and just go to town and eat it all. The fact is you have achievements you don’t want to lose. It’s perfectly normal to want to enjoy the fabulous foods that come out during the Holidays and I personally think you should. But just as you plan out your other meals on a regular basis, you need to have a Holiday game plan.

The goal from Thanksgiving to New Year’s isn’t to lose weight, just maintain your current weight. It’s important to be realistic. Dropping pounds this time of year puts A LOT of pressure on you, causing more stress which can derail you completely.

Tips to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

Temptations will be everywhere, but luckily there are only a handful of days that have significant family meals that can lead to overeating. Plan on following your healthy diet and exercise routine on all other days. If possible, try to add an extra 15 minutes to each workout. It may not seem like much but it will add up over the 5+ weeks.

Dealing with Family Stress

Whose family doesn’t stress them out sometimes? Whether it’s your siblings, in-laws or the new girl your cousin is dating that has that annoying laugh, you need to be ready to deal with the stress in a healthy way.

  • Start by not signing up to do too much around these big family days. The last thing you want is to feel pressured to complete a big list of tasks before heading over.
  • When tension rises, take a quick walk. If possible, walk in sunlight do get some vitamin D. Additionally, go find the family member that makes you laugh the hardest and don’t hold back.
  • Bring your favorite herbal tea and take a moment to enjoy it.

Related: Weight Loss Quick Start Guide

Limit Unhealthy Food Intake

Healthy Eater’s Holiday Survival Guide

Just as you plan healthy choices in your daily life, you need to plan for Holiday dinners, as well.

  • Start by identifying the foods you know you can’t resist. Look up how many calories per serving so you can budget them into your meal. This way you can have everything you want by limiting your portions.
  • Have a good breakfast. Don’t be one of those people who skip breakfast to leave room for Thanksgiving dinner. With a nutritious breakfast you will be less likely to overeat. If you are travelling, be sure to bring your own snacks and don’t rely on grabbing something at the airport, gas station or any other place that offer snack-like items. Plus most of the items offered contain very high levels of sodium. Almonds are also an awesome choice when it comes to arming yourself against hunger and stress. They’re high in magnesium, zinc, as well as vitamins B2, C, and E and unsaturated fats, all which are great warriors against free radicals.
  • Don’t ruin your appetite on appetizers. Aim for the fruits and vegetables but skip the dip. Try not to stand right next to them, you want distance between you so it’s not easy to reach for food while you’re talking.
  • Request a smaller plate. Standard dinner plates are huge these days. Using a smaller plate decreases the amount of food that will fit.
  • Give the illusion of eating. This one may sound weird but it works for my family dinners. Growing up in a big Italian family means there is a never-ending flow of food on Holidays. If your plate is empty, someone fills it for you and you’re expected to clear your plate. So my trick is to always have food on my plate (maybe one piece has a bite taken out of it) and when the next round of food comes out, give my plate to someone who can finish it. This way I’m not constantly eating, nobody is offended that I’m not eating and the food doesn’t go to waste.
  • Offer to bring a healthier dish or two. Try making some superfood side dishes. Holiday superfoods include sweet potatoes, asparagus, brussel sprouts, cranberries, kale, spinach, quinoa, broccoli and beets, just to name a few. They are healthy options that contain a good amount of nutrients when they’re prepared without excess butter and salt.
    See recipes for Honey Basil Sweet Potatoes, Garlic Green Beans, Roasted Lemon Garlic Asparagus and Cucumber & Tomato Salad.
  • Stay hydrated. Holiday dinners go by so quickly and sometimes we forget to keep drinking water. Keeping your body hydrated will help you eat less and have more energy.
  • Pace yourself. Let the food reach your stomach before reaching for seconds.

Related: How to Read Food Labels

After Dinner Tips

In my family, you have a 30-45 minute break in between the gigantic main meal and dessert. It’s not too much time to really be ready for dessert, but that’s okay, the less dessert the better, right?

  • Post-Dinner Exercise. After dinner, get a little bit of exercise in by going for a short walk or dancing with kids or anything else that will get your body moving. The last thing you want is to be stuck on the couch.
  • Add Fruit to Dessert. Adding fruits like apples or grapes to your dessert plate will help with any potential heartburn and add fiber to make the rest of the meal easier to digest.

I know it’s not easy to pass up some of your favorite Holiday foods. But if you plan it out, you can still have small portions of them without undoing your week.

While avoiding unhealthy options can be a bit stressful, remember to take a moment to be thankful for them and the many other options at the dinner table. Be grateful for those around you and enjoy every moment with the ones you love.

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