However, you can still enjoy the holiday season and all the tasty dishes without feeling guilty. Here are a few tips on how to maintain your healthy eating habits during the holidays while living your life to the fullest.
13 Ways to Eat Healthy During the Holidays
As impossible as it might seem, staying healthy and not overeating during the holiday season is possible if you focus on the right things. Here’s how you can do that.
“A few tricks I recommend for staying healthy through the holidays are:
- Keep regular meal times. It can be easy to snack mindlessly throughout the day or eliminate meals altogether. Both of these things can actually lead to overconsumption and weight gain.
- Stay hydrated. This helps us be more aware of true hunger/fullness cues. Sometimes we may mistake thirst for hunger.
- If you don't love it, leave it. Only choose the holiday goodies that are the best. Likely there is a lot of good stuff around and no reason to commit to something that isn't your favorite.”
Shena Jaramillo MS, RD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Peace & Nutrition
Focus on Your Family and Friends, Not Food
Usually, holidays are all about presents and food, a lot of food. But what if you tried to think of holidays as the best time to cherish the relationship with your nearest and dearest instead of thinking about food all the time? Even if this year you’re spending time with your family over a Zoom call, make the most out of it.
Once you manage to switch your focus from food to activities, you’ll notice that it’s much easier to follow healthy habits and feel good about it. At the end of the day, food isn’t running away, and you can eat a pudding any other time, not only on Christmas Eve.
Try Prepping Your Meals
“One of the best ways you can maintain your healthy eating habits and stay on track during the holidays is to meal prep. When you set aside a couple of hours each week dedicated to planning and packaging your meals for the week, it takes all the guesswork out of your calories and meals later. Having portioned, healthy meals readily available makes it easy to grab and go, making you less tempted to drive through the fast-food lane once those hunger pains come on.”
Natasha Funderburk, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, ACE-Behavior Change Specialist
Make Smart Shopping Decisions
If you’re the one responsible for the holiday shopping, take advantage of it. Try to buy healthy products and avoid processed foods as much as possible. Also, do not buy more products than you need. The more leftovers you have, the more likely you’re to binge eat during the holidays.
It’s also a good idea to think through what you’re going to cook and shop accordingly. If you go to the grocery store without a clear idea of what you’re going to prepare, you might end up with much more food, which means more calories and a bigger bill.
Power-up With Protein
“Protein is a party girl's best friend. Protein-rich foods like shrimp, salmon, poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy, and beans help to keep you satisfied between meals and feeling fuller longer. A bonus boon for seafood? This high-protein choice is also rich in heart-healthy omega-3s DHA and EPA.”
Rima Kleiner, MS, RD, of Dish on Fish
And if you’re short on time, you can always take advantage of a protein shake or smoothie. At Gelpro Australia, we offer a wide range of premium protein products to help you get through the holiday season without giving up your healthy routine.
Don’t Pause Your Workout Schedule
Of course, holidays are for relaxing. However, if you try to treat holidays like any other time of the year, it’ll be much easier for you to do what you regularly do. Whether it’s hitting the gym, quickly working out from home, or simply going for a walk, do not stop doing these things.
Since holidays are full of fattier, more sugary, and caloric foods, moving as much as possible can help you maintain a healthy weight and speed up your metabolism. So, if you’re hesitating between eating another snack or playing Twister, always choose the latter.
Avoid Unhealthy Foods
“Here are my strategies that clients have found really effective for keeping healthy eating habits:
- Make unhealthy food inaccessible in the house. Willpower is a volatile thing, and it’s much more effective to change your environment. Ask family members or housemates to keep unhealthy food hidden. Out of sight is out of mind.
- Keep a habit tracker for days you didn’t snack. Recording your habits reduces the likely hood of you breaking the habit as you don’t want to ruin your progress.
- If you end up eating unhealthy food, make a healthy food choice as soon as possible. It’s really easy to spiral out of control, and the best way to combat this is to get back on the horse as soon as possible.”
Oliver Bashforth, Head Coach at Blackridge Fitness
Don’t Feel Guilty About What You Eat
One of the most important things to remember during this holiday season is to enjoy it. Enjoy people around you, enjoy the food you eat and enjoy all the activities you do. And if you eat five cookies more than you planned, don’t get upset about it and focus more on the joy you experience when devouring them.
“Food is designed to be pleasurable. So once we begin to notice how pleasurable healthy food choices are, we can substitute them for more and more unhealthy food choices, creating new pleasurable good habits that don’t leave harmful effects on our bodies as junk food does.
Over time, new neural pathways are formed because of the neuroplasticity of our brains. So the new delightful habits of eating fresh fruit instead of cake become more deeply satisfying. Especially since the pleasure is not accompanied by any negative repercussions.”
Bracha Goetz, Harvard-Educated Wellness Expert & Author of 39 Books
Of course, overeating isn’t good for you, but stressing over it is even worse. So, try to keep a cool head and do your best to maintain your healthy eating habits. Food is fuel for your body, so treat it with respect. Once you start perceiving food with delight and not guilt, it’ll be easier to sustain a healthy life balance.
Avoid Labeling Foods as Good or Bad
“This is a sure way to take the joy out of your holidays. If you have a few favorite holiday treats that you love allow yourself to enjoy them. You do not have to eat everything that is offered to you. Decide which foods you want to try and which ones you do not. There will be plenty of goodies everywhere you go. Be selective about which ones you want. You will enjoy the ones you decide to try even more when you do not force yourself to sample everything that is available.”
Kerry Heath, LPC-S, NCC, CEDS-S & Writer at Choosing Therapy
Lighten up Your Dishes
Christmas staples are a must for most people to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest. However, if you want to take care of your body while still feeling festive, there are quite a few recipes you can find online to make your holiday dishes both tasty and healthy.
If you have a chance, try to choose lighter, less caloric products for your Christmas dinner. With the number of products out there, it shouldn’t be hard to substitute some of the heavier ones with their low-fat counterparts. Or you can experiment and switch up your traditional dishes with some interesting modifications.
Consider Intermittent Fasting
“To combat the negative effects of indulging during holiday meals, I recommend fasting intermittently. There are three different methods to achieve fasting.
The first method is to consume a shake for breakfast and lunch, followed by a sensible dinner in the evening. Healthy smoothies will significantly curb your consumption, placing you on a more liquid diet yet still satisfying your nutrients levels. Following the smoothies with a dinner that you enjoy made from whole, healthy food, not processed foods.
Option two is to follow the 6-hour rule, which allows you to consume food for over 6 hours. For example, eating your first meal at noon, followed by dinner at 6 pm and no other meals until the next day at noon. This method gives your body an 18-hour window of rest from processing food and using its energy on
The last method is to juice cleanse or fast for 24 hours. This approach is for a more advanced candidate but will provide so many benefits of improved energy levels as well as hormone balancing and support. During holiday times, try fasting on odd days when you are not meeting with friends or family. It will help to reset your system after the days of overindulging.”
Dr. Livingood, Owner & CEO of Dr. Livingood/ Livingood Daily
Maintaining your healthy eating and lifestyle habits might be a bit harder during the holidays. Yet, it doesn’t mean you cannot do it. If you try your best to sustain your physical and mental health by following the tips we mentioned in this article, you’ll be less likely to fall into the trap of holiday overeating.
Remember that it’s your life, your diet, and your decisions. Do what you believe is best for you, listen to your body, and enjoy the good times with your family and friends.