Whether it’s a Thanksgiving Day feast, Christmas cookies, a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, or Easter chocolate, we have holidays throughout the year that can take you off-course of your journey to eating healthier and losing weight. How can we eat healthy during the holidays while maintaining our good habits? And, how can we start eating healthy again after the holidays? Here are 5 tips to help you through any holiday!
Eat a Light Meal Before the Feast
A common mistake people make is trying NOT to eat before they go to a holiday dinner or party. The thought is to “save the calories for later” but, unfortunately, this makes it much more likely that you will OVEReat at the social gathering. For example, I love chips and salsa or guacamole. But, if I’m starving, I can eat practically an entire bag and I can eat mindlessly for at least 20 minutes. And, yet, I’m still hungry!
On the other hand, it IS the right idea not to eat too much leading up to your social event!
Instead, before you go to that social event, plan to eat a light meal. In our society, it’s rare that parties or gatherings have very healthy food except for some veggies perhaps. So, one idea is to make a quick salad about 30 minutes to an hour before you leave. You won’t be full but you won’t be starving either. Plus, you’ll save money if you can avoid ordering a side salad at a restaurant. In addition, you’ve eaten some great nutrition and nourished your body!
Other small meal ideas could include a greek yogurt with some fruit and a tablespoon of nuts, whole-grain toast with a little fruit, or banana and peanut butter. Combine a protein with a complex carb or fruit to avoid feeling starved.
Plan Drinks Ahead of Time
Drinks are a big source of excess calories. Whether you like drinking soda pop, lemonade, alcoholic drinks, or sweet tea, you can pack on an extra 200-500 calories just in drinks alone! There are tips to help you avoid this fate.
One idea is to make an agreement with yourself that you can “earn” your high-calorie drink by first drinking a glass of water for each drink you have. This will help you feel less thirsty, too, and avoid any headaches from a sugar crash or hangover. Another option is to set yourself a drink limit. For example, plan to drink two glasses of wine or two cups of soda pop. Switch to water once you drink your budgeted amount. Easier said than done, I know, but this can really help you avoid drinking excess calories.
If you drink hard alcohol, keep in mind that most of the calories are in the mixers. If you have a shot of alcohol and drink water afterward, you will get the same effect as that margarita you like drinking. Of course, please drink responsibly and don’t drive while under the influence.
Eating too much food is the easiest way to gain weight, unfortunately. It takes at least 20 minutes for our body to get all the signals to indicate we are satiated or content. Ideally, you are doing all the tips in our e-Book, 10 Practical Ways to Lose Weight Without Counting Calories, and doing #’s 3 and 6.
For family gatherings, we typically have everyone bring a dish and everything looks soooo good! If you want to sample a little of almost everything, plan to put half a fist-size (or less) of each item on your plate. One thing that’s evident is that people don’t like wasting food and it’s considered “rude” to put it on your plate and not eat it. So, you can save yourself calories by simply not putting it on your plate in the first place.
Be Picky Eating Healthy During Holidays
When there are 10 things to choose from at a dinner party, it’s really hard not to eat a little of everything. But, adding 10 items to your plate, even if just a little bit, can really add up calorie-wise!
Another strategy to keep your calories in check is to choose just two or three items that look especially good. Choose one protein, one carbohydrate, and one veggie, if possible. So, for example, choose turkey, mac & cheese, and green bean casserole. Try to stick to an open palm size for the protein and fist-size for the other items. Then, for dessert, choose one item and eat half of it. You’ll get the taste but avoid too many excess of calories.
Another tip is to have a piece of gum in your pocket. It’s very hard not to finish an entire piece of cake, I know. Ask for half a slice or give half to someone else, then pop a piece of gum in your mouth. Once the sweet taste is gone, you’ll be happy you didn’t finish it!
Getting Back on Track After the Holiday
So many of us feel bad about eating poorly over a holiday that we get into a rut and can’t seem to break out of it. But, it’s okay! Just pick yourself up and move forward no matter what happened over the holidays. What happened yesterday isn’t what needs to happen today. We simply need to break the cycle.
When I’m getting back on track after a holiday, I choose a day that I will get back into my healthier habits. For example, that could be January 3rd after the New Year or February 17th after Valentine’s Day. That doesn’t mean I should binge a bunch leading up to that day but I try not to stress AS much. I just give myself a target date to get back on track.
I don’t really like cleanses and detox programs but if I need to “reset” my mindset, I like to do the 3-Day Refresh from Beachbody. The #1 thing that the 3-Day Refresh helps remind me of is that I don’t need as much food as I am capable of eating. I am a “clean plater” so I tend to eat everything I put on my plate. This has been a very hard habit for me to break and I overeat easily because of it. So, when I do the Refresh, it helps remind me that I don’t need that much food for my small 5’3″ frame. It also reminds me to measure my food. I am reminded that one tablespoon of oil goes a long way, for example. I’ll do a full review of this program in another post sometime but this is a good way for me to break a few habits that return over again.
No matter where you are in your journey to better health or losing weight, know you are not alone if you struggle with eating healthy during the holidays. For most of us, we just need to break ONE habit to get back on track. I hope this post has helped you take one step toward your goal!