10 Strategies for Healthy Holiday Eating

delicious holiday feast on table

The holiday season is a time of year where we are surrounded by food. From magazine covers with beautiful cookies to articles featuring the latest eggnog recipes to office parties where everyone brings their favorite dessert — food is everywhere! Little wonder why healthy holiday eating is so difficult. What other time of the year faces us with such challenges that can derail us from our weight loss goals.

The best way to enjoy this magical season while staying on track is to strategically plan for the activities ahead. That way we can arrive in the new year feeling happy, healthy, and good about what we’ve accomplished. Here are some strategies to help navigate you healthy holiday eating.

1. Have a Party Plan

You want to enjoy your family and friends and not be stressed about losing weight. So let’s concentrate on not gaining, rather than losing. The best way to do this is to plan ahead.

What food will be there? Will it be something you only have once a year? How much of it will you eat? To control your choices, think about bringing a low carb appetizer such as a veggie tray, meat and cheese tray or shrimp cocktail. Or bring a healthy dessert such as fruit with light whipped cream. That way you can enjoy eating without overindulging.

2. Never Go to an Event Hungry

Before you go to a dinner or a party, consider having a protein bar or shake. Or prepare earlier in the day by having a small but healthy breakfast and a light lunch. If you do this before you arrive, you will be less likely to overindulge on the heavy appetizers.

3. Remember How to Fill Your Plate

Picture dividing your plate in half. The first half is reserved for lean protein. On the second half, fill 2/3 with salad, veggies or fruit. 1/3 is left for your carbs so choose carefully! 

4. Exercise the Morning of an Event

If you exercise the morning of an event, you will be mentally setting yourself up for success. The endorphins will kick in and carry you through the day. Plus, knowing that you’ve worked hard to maintain your weight can help discourage temptation at the buffet table. 

Go for a walk, play basketball or football — whatever works for you. Doing so can improve your well-being and encourage you to make better choices when it comes to food. Getting your blood moving will also help you better digest any calories you do consume! 

5. Beware of Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages pose a double threat: they are typically high in calories and overindulging in them makes it easy to overeat, because we become less inhibited. Limit your alcohol consumption to one or two drinks in moderation over the day. Then switch to a low calorie or no calorie drink like water, coffee, or tea. If you are on a low carb plan, remember that clear liquor is always better. 

Another strategy is to downsize your glasses. Mentally we like to fill space so by using a smaller glass, it helps us control that urge. 

6. Journal Your Food

It’s easy to let this fall by the wayside amid the frantic activities of the holidays, but it’s so important to keep up. People who journal their food lose twice as much weight as those who don’t. Journaling can also help you keep track of your holiday indulgences and remind you to keep them to a minimum. 

7. Don’t Let the Holiday Turn Into a Holi-week

Thanksgiving is a day to enjoy with your loved ones. But don’t let that day turn into a week or month-long food fest. When you wake up on Friday, it can be nice to have Thanksgiving leftovers. But for those on a weight loss plan, it’s important to get right back on track the day after the event. So give those leftovers to someone else and use Friday and Saturday to return to a healthy eating plan.

8. Remember the 3 Bite Rule

At this time of the year we see so many high-calorie options like dips, hor’dourves, cookies, and pies. Keep in mind the 3 bite rule: you can have 3 bites of anything. Make it a game and have fun with it. Choose an appetizer and thoroughly enjoy your 3 bites. After your meal, choose one dessert and slowly savor those 3 bites.

The 3 bite rule works because it saturates the receptors of your limbic system. This is the reward center of your brain that’s always looking for pleasure. Regardless of how much you eat, you will never get that first bite sensation after the third bite. Eating slowly and mindfully will also help you to get full quicker. So look at the whole meal and be selective.

9. Don’t Focus on Food

Remember that the holidays are so much more than food. They are also wonderful opportunities to be with family and friends. So approach each event with thoughtful “people” goals. Think “I want to spend time with Aunt Sue to find out how her dog is.” Or “I want to be sure to talk to Gary and get caught up.” Focusing on the people present rather than the food helps us truly savor the holidays.

Another way to keep the focus off food is to enjoy some non-eating events. See a movie, go bowling with your family and friends, or take a walk at night to look at the newly strung holiday lights. Try out a new, non-eating hobby like woodworking, knitting, or coloring. Find things to do this holiday season that give you pleasure without involving food.

10. Celebrate Your Accomplishments

This holiday season, find moments to celebrate your success. Think about where you were last year at this time and write down 3 things you are proud of accomplishing this year. Are you a different clothes size? Off some medications? In a generally healthier space? Focus on these positives and take time to celebrate your achievements.

Happy holidays from the team at Medical Weight Loss! 

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