Healthy Holiday Eating Habits

Beautiful table setting for Christmas party or New Year celebration in restaurant

Don’t fall victim to the holiday feeding frenzy.

While the holiday season can be stressful, it is also a wonderful and joyful season filled with fun social events. Your calendar may be full of holiday concerts, office parties, caroling, festivals, and cocktail parties. The drinks will flow and delicious treats abound, but the holidays don’t have to derail your diet.

As you’re making the rounds this season, a little planning goes a long way to ensure healthy holiday habits. Follow these simple guidelines to avoid the most common holiday pitfalls.

Have a plan. As the holidays approach, devise a plan for how you will cope with the wide array of enticing treats. Are you currently trying to lose weight? If so, will you continue to diet through the holiday season or will you shift your attention to maintaining your current weight? Will you allow yourself to eat all treats, some treats, or no treats? Think about what feels realistic and right for you. Write down your plan—the commitments we write down are the ones we are most likely to keep.

Maintain your routine. The holidays are usually a frenetic time, which is why it is so important to maintain a sense of normalcy. Stick to your normal meal plan as much as possible. Continue to shop for your typical grocery staples and prepare healthy meals for your family. If you eat well most of the time, a few splurges at holiday parties are not likely to have lasting effects.

Manage stress. Most of the time, overeating at holiday events is the result of stress. Under other less-stressful circumstances, we might find it easier to pass up the rich desserts; however, when we’re tired and overwhelmed, we’re more likely to reach for sugary, starchy treats. Managing your stress will help you to be proactive. Get plenty of sleep and plenty of exercise throughout the season. You’ll be less likely to indulge in treats and more likely to indulge in conversation.

Pre-eat. Don’t arrive hungry to a holiday party. Face it—you’re there to socialize, not to eat. So, make the party about the people, not the food. Arrive with a full belly and focus on the conversation and hilarity.

Stay hydrated. Often we mistake dehydration for hunger. Drink plenty of water this season and you’ll be less likely to reach for empty calories.

Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol is full of empty calories that are correlated with an increase in abdominal fat. Furthermore, alcohol reduces our inhibitions and often causes us to nibble when we aren’t really hungry. Limit your alcohol intake and you’re more likely to make healthy food choices.

Pause. Take a deep breath before you reach for a treat and ask yourself if you really want it. Will it really satisfy you? Are you hungry or do you just want a treat? If you’re hungry, is there another choice that will satisfy your hunger and provide some nutrients? Most hosts provide a veggie tray. Nibble on carrots before reaching for cookies.

Indulge. Face it—some holiday treats are irresistible and only appear once a year. It’s okay to indulge. Save your splurges for the treats you really love. If you don’t love it, why bother?

The holidays are not a license to eat anything we want, but they don’t have to be about deprivation either. Find a balance and enjoy the season. Happy, healthy holidays!