Blog: Maintaining Healthy Choices over the Holidays – It is Easier than You Think!

Applying a Little Logic to the Holidays

There is a lot going on this time of year and it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get caught up and tempted to justify overindulging during this time, maybe even starting back in August when the first Pumpkin Spice items started rolling out.  But let’s hit the pause button, take a deep breath, and do some simple math.  

We can define the Holiday Season in different ways, but a good narrow definition would cover Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, or about 5 weeks. If we eat 3 meals a day that consists of 105 meals, but how many of these are actually considered special Holiday meals? Only about 5 – so that means you have at least 100 other meals in this time period! Isn’t that a relief? 

When you put it into perspective like that, it’s easy to see that eating during this Holiday Season doesn’t have to keep you from your health goals. With a different mindset and a little planning, we can easily take on those events without guilt or regret!  

5 Tips for success

Remember the reason for the season

What are we celebrating? Most of us want to enjoy the company of being around friends and relatives we have not seen in a long time or relax with co-workers out of the working environment. Let’s laugh, talk, and enjoy the moments with the people around us.

Bring vegetables!

We need to eat vegetables every day and can’t always count on others to include them on a holiday or party menu.  Be prepared and bring your own. Be the one that brings the vegetable dish and make it a priority on your plate – eat it first!  This can help take the edge off your hunger and fill you up with fiber. If you leave the vegetables for last, then you may be too full and miss out on those much-needed nutrients.

For example, a vegetable tray is a classic and easy option, but you could always try a new Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe OR a simple festive salad with lots of different colored vegetables!  

Set your alarm to exercise!

Start your exercise goals now and plan to stick to them! Exercise can offset some of the extra calories by boosting your metabolism, but more importantly, it can relieve the stress we often see the Holiday Season bring.  Schedule your workouts and set your alarm or calendar reminders. This could be waking up 20 minutes earlier, taking a 20-minute break at work or after dinner before you sit down for the night. The best exercise is the one that you do – the key is to plan it and follow through consistently. Putting it into your schedule or on your daily To-Do list is a great tool to reinforce your goals and ensure you do it. 

Don’t skip meals to save up!

Skipping meals is never a good idea and the tempting thought that we can “save” calories for a party or holiday meal sets us up for failure.  Even if we manage to stick to our daily calorie goal, we aren’t eating the ideal foods in the ideal pattern to fuel our bodies. We are also setting ourselves up to confront a buffet of calorie-rich foods with an appetite the size of Texas – what’s the likelihood we’ll be able to practice restraint and moderation?  Instead, plan a balanced breakfast and lunch with lean protein and vegetables to steady your blood sugar and regulate your appetite so you are less likely to overindulge at the party.  

Keep alcohol in check

Wine, beer, and mixed drinks can range from 150-220 calories if provided in the standard amount – and how many hosts keep jiggers available at the bar?  Eggnog can contain a shocking 500 calories! Have a glass of water or seltzer before, between, and after your favorite holiday beverage to satisfy thirst and hydration needs.  Your meal plan and calorie targets are meant to apply to all calories you consume – including beverages. Be aware alcohol can increase your appetite and diminish your control of what you eat.

If we have a plan to tackle the Holiday Season then we will have more confidence that it can be accomplished! 

Remember to enjoy the festivities, be prepared, and you’ll be ahead of the game for a healthy 2020.


Post written by dietitian and nutritionist Peggy Smith, RDN, LDN, CDE

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