Nutrition Corner: Six Ways to Stick to Healthy Eating This Holiday Season

Healthy ThanksgivingWith forethought and a few tricks, you can stick to your health goals this holiday season! Try these six tools this year.

  1. Be mindful. Aim for a healthy relationship with food this year by practicing mindful eating—an exercise that builds awareness of our actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations behind eating. This practice focuses on listening to your body, acknowledging your hunger and satiety cues, and keeping tabs on how certain foods make you feel. Mindful eating can also help you create a better eating environment by slowing down at mealtimes and focusing on cherishing food. Mindfulness can remove the guilt around food intake and help you experience the joy of eating again.
  2. Continue your exercise routines. Maintaining your exercise routine in the midst of parties, travel and winter darkness will keep your stress down and your immune system at its best. Set realistic expectations for the holiday season. Create a new routine if it means you are more likely to stick with it. Often, success is best achieved when you include your favorite spin or yoga class in your weekly schedule—or find an activity that offers more flexibility.
  3. Prepare yourself with a plan. Come up with a realistic plan for parties, office treats or temptations when out shopping. Some people benefit from eating a light, healthy meal before attending a party to reduce their potential to binge on higher-calorie foods. This trick also will ensure you get your servings of fruits or vegetables beforehand, while boosting your willpower by not being hungry. When you head out shopping or to work, pack healthy snacks to avoid impulse purchases or grabbing an extra dessert from the workplace cafeteria. Some easy ideas are roasted chickpeas, apple or orange slices, or whole-grain crackers.
  4. Know your stressors. Take a few minutes before the holidays to write a list of your main stressors. Is it your family, the business of events, your kids during their sugar highs? Make a plan for handling these stressors to lessen the burden on your body. For example, if planning for guests is your stressor, try to delegate tasks instead of doing it all yourself or schedule some self-care activities before or after the event.
  5. Plan for indulgences. Let’s get real—holidays are delicious especially when all your favorite traditional foods come back, like grandma’s apple pie, uncle’s pepperoni rolls or, mm-mm, auntie’s artichoke dip. How about being a little pickier with your food choices this year? Try focusing on just your favorites while forgetting the empty-calorie or high-calorie fillers. Feel good about the foods you choose to indulge in and really savor every bite.
  6. Rethink your drink. Cutting out sweetened beverages is one way to stick to your health goals while still enjoying favorite traditions. Many drinks are full of calories yet have no or little nutritional benefit. In particular, alcoholic drinks not only are caloric, but also tend to loosen our decision-making skills around food intake (hello, late-night munchies). Turn to infused, sparkling or regular water as an alternative and practice moderation when drinking alcohol, which is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Sticking with these suggestions can help you to alleviate stress and enjoy a healthy holiday season with family and friends. Don’t beat yourself up over the occasional splurge. Just keep your focus and continue to set goals that keep you on track.