Ah, the holidays. With all of the big family meals, delicious sweets, and plenty of specialty drinks to welcome the New Year, it’s hard to even imagine it’s possible to keep your diet. Here are a few tips to keep your healthy rhythm going without missing out on the fun.
1) Take Walks Before and After Meals
A lot of the time, the meals we eat for the holidays aren’t necessarily unhealthy, but we eat such huge portions that we slowly pack on the pounds we tried so hard to lose the rest of the year. Taking walks before and after big meals will help you lose some of the calories you are about to consume, and taking a breath of fresh air will also help you relieve some of the stress. In addition, research has shown that taking walks before meals actually helps prevent coronary heart disease.
As the turkey finishes cooking, grab your family and take a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood! You’ll feel better, and you may just pick up the good habit for the rest of the year.
2) Focus on the Fun, Not the Food
You may love your aunt’s pumpkin pie, but try to keep your excitement focused on the family time and the opportunity to catch up with friends. Staying focused on people instead of food will have you eating less and building relationships more. Taking advantage of these moments will last much longer than that last bite of gingerbread! We know this is not an easy task, and it takes some mental preparation beforehand, but the practice will keep you in the moment and satisfied by the company, not the full belly.
3) Stop Eating Before You Feel Stuffed
When relatives visit and everyone brings something to share, it is easy to get overwhelmed and excited by all of the delicious holiday treats. The problem is, most of these foods tend to be high in refined sugar and saturated fats that are the culprit of quick weight gain and long-term health problems. One of the tricks is to eat slowly, really enjoy the food, and stop eating before you get to the point where you have to subtly unbutton your pants. Eat until you are satisfied, but don’t go overboard. It takes up to 20 minutes for our brain to register when we are full, so eat slowly and make a conscious check about how hungry you still are before you serve yourself another piece of smoked ham.
4) Eat a Light, Healthy Meal Before Leaving the House
When we know we are going to have a big meal later on in the day, we often avoid eating at all to make sure we “make room” for the meal that is to come. However, skipping meals can cause overeating later on in the day, meaning in one sitting you may eat more than a day’s worth of calories! If you make up a fresh salad or munch on a red apple with a glass of water before you leave the house, you won’t be starving by the time you get there. This way you can enjoy yourself without stuffing yourself.
5) Replace Unhealthy Ingredients for Healthier Ones
Take a look at your family recipes and pick out some of the more unhealthy ingredients. If a recipe calls for lard or bacon grease, switch it out for olive oil in smaller quantities. If it calls for large amounts of sugar, see if you can switch it out for stevia, a plant-based, no-calorie sweetener. Use skim milk or almond milk instead of whole milk. These tips, used repeatedly in all of your favorite holiday dishes will help limit your saturated fat and caloric intake, and in most cases no one will even know the difference!
6) Pick and Choose the Most Special Holiday Treats
We all know what our favorite dishes are during the holidays, but along the way we cannot help but try new things– sometimes more than once. Make your mantra “quality over quantity”, and savor every piece of your favorite holiday dishes. When you are at a holiday party and get overwhelmed by all that there is to offer, just think about the treats you are really looking forward to and stick to those. Like one of these 7 healthy sweet treats.
These tips have all been about your physical health during the holidays, but there is another aspect to consider. Always remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so as the stress piles up while you think about everything you need to get done, make sure to take some time for yourself. Treat yourself to a massage or take time to watch your favorite movie.
Making sure you avoid stress will also help you to avoid stress-eating. The best part of all? You’ll feel so good in the new year when you realize that you have stayed on track, even through the holidays!