The Holidays are upon us! Once again, we’re entering into that magical season of the year that seems to be at once incredibly overwhelming and oh so rewarding. We fill our souls with quality time with those we love. And we also tend to overfill our cups (and our plates) with lots of booze and tons of food. Add in limited rest and far fewer trips to the gym, and you’ve got a recipe for holiday weight gain and feeling pretty darn lousy when it’s all over.
But there’s always New Year’s Day for us to set new goals, right?
What about if, instead of waiting until the first of the year, you found a way to get through the holiday season healthy, happy, and feeling good? Because nobody actually wants to gain 10 or 15 pounds and be burdened with losing the weight come January 1st, right?
The reality is, keeping your momentum through the holidays means you’ll actually be able to enjoy your time because you’ll feel healthy and well, not run down and sluggish. To help you do just that, here are 11 of our favorite tips and tricks to help you stay on track this holiday season.
Tip #1: Eat Like Normal the Day of Events
For many people, you’ll spend the months of November and December flitting from event to event. You might have a work party, a Friendsgiving, a neighborhood gift exchange, and that’s in addition to the major holiday celebrations with the family that you may host or attend out of town. What the vast majority of these celebrations have in common is this:
So. Much. Food.
And as those events arrive, some people have the mindset, “I won’t eat today because I’m saving my calories for tonight.” We hate to break it to you, but thinking this way is a HUGE mistake.
Reserving calories during the day means that when the party happens, you’re going to be starving. And since your body hasn’t had food all day when it finally gets a taste, it’s going to say “more, more, more, don’t stop!”
Instead, focus on eating like normal. Make sure what you eat during the day is healthy and satisfying. That way, when you get to the party, you can eat like a rational human and not overindulge to the point that you feel sick.
Tip #2: Use a Smaller Plate
Studies have shown that you will fill the size of the plate you choose. So if you pick a small plate, you’ll fill it. If you choose the jumbo-sized Costco plate, you’ll fill it. And we all know what happens when you fill your plate, you eat it.
So given a choice between multiple plate sizes, start with the small one. And as you fill that plate, you can use our next tip to make sure you’re choosing wisely.
Tip #3: Fill Your Plate with Healthy Options
The first items on your plate should be fruits, veggies, lean meats, salads, anything that’s healthy and filling. Once the bulk of your plate has those healthy options, fill in with other items that aren’t something you’d usually choose. Want that mac and cheese? Sure thing, don’t avoid it. But instead of filling half your plate with it, you’re now in a position of only being able to take a small serving.
Tip #4: Don’t Avoid Foods You Love, Take Less Instead
We’ve all heard the expression “everything in moderation.” And that’s so true when it comes to those foods that make you start drooling when you see them.
The worst thing you can do is to totally deprive yourself. That’s how people go off the rails and binge on their favorite foods. Instead, try a little bit. Be reasonable about how much you need to get the flavor. You can probably taste how good the cookie is on the first one; it doesn’t take 7 to feel the love.
Tip #5: Slow Down and Enjoy Your Food
Grazing is so common at holiday parties. If you’re busy chatting with others, you may decide not to get a plate and just pick at something here and there instead. And while you think you might not be eating as much, you may actually be taking in more food than you would have by just getting a plate.
Sit down and eat mindfully. The best thing you can do is to relax and enjoy your meal. Don’t rush it down because you’re starving. Instead, appreciate the food before you and use it to nourish your body instead of providing a quick hit, then you’re popping back up for round two.
Tip #6: Socialize Away From the Food
If you hang out by the buffet table, you’re going to constantly be snacking from the buffet table. Put some distance between you and the food. Grab a plate and go sit at a table with friends or take the opportunity to go sit outside if you can. You’ll get engaged in socializing and won’t be consumed by the food.
Tip #7: Eat a Normal Meal Before Later Events
If your holiday party is later in the evening, the host may not serve a full meal but smaller bites instead. If that’s the case, failure to eat a regular dinner first means you’ll be eating what they have as your meal, and it may not be as healthful. It pays to eat a healthy, small meal at home first, then you can nibble on a few holiday favorites at the party if you’re still hungry.
Tip #8: Balance Alcohol and Water
Tis the season for overindulging in booze. That’s evidenced by the great stories that come from the holiday party, right? But when it comes to alcohol, it’s always wise to go one for one. That means one glass of wine/beer/cocktail followed by one glass of water.
Staying hydrated will save you from dehydration headaches and consuming way more calories than you wanted. Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions and makes you more likely to head back to the dessert table for a second or third time. If you’re trying to practice mindful eating habits, mindful drinking habits are a critical piece of staying on track too.
Tip #9: Make Your House a Safe Space
With so many temptations happening outside the home during the holiday season, the last thing you want is to be bombarded at home too. So the early holiday season is the perfect time to do a major kitchen clean-out. Be sure your house only offers healthy things or that most of what you have at home is healthy.
This time of year is perfect for meal prep. Taking a few hours to cook on the weekend will save so much stress when your schedule is jam-packed with parties and events. It also allows you to make sure the right portions and foods are available for you and your family.
Tip #10: Choose Healthy Holiday Food Swaps
There are so many recipes out there that can help you make holiday favorites in a healthier way. Research these ahead of time, so you’ll know what you’re making when the actual holiday or party comes up. By seeking out these recipes in October, you can start fixing them for your family now. And that way, you can find what’s a hit and what’s a bust before you plan to serve the dish at a party.
Tip #11: Seize the Opportunity to Host
The beauty of hosting a holiday gathering is that you control the menu! You can assign dishes to others or take responsibility for all the cooking yourself. This way, you can still socialize and have a great time, but you’ll also have ultimate control over what you’re eating.
The Last Word About How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
The holidays are a festive and fabulous time. But that doesn’t mean you need to fall victim to the idea that everyone will gain a few pounds and need to get their butt in gear after New Year’s. On the contrary, with a little bit of planning and preparing, you can come out looking good and feeling good.
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