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7 Ways To Eat Better During The Holiday Season

Holiday fun foods are suddenly everywhere. And the temptation and fear of missing out mixed with the overwhelm of trying to stick to your eat better goals can cause your inner critic to rear her ugly head... thoughts like "You better eat it ALL now and get it out of your system!" and "Nah girl, there's just no way you can do it, so you might as well quit and just start over after the holidays!"

It starts innocently enough. You walk in to the party, committed to eat just a little of this and a small bit of that. But before you know it, you're loading up a plate with every cookie, brownie and festive holiday treat you can get your hands on.

What the heck happened?

Frustrated and discouraged, you decide eating better is just too darn hard and give up until January 1.

Here's the problem: for years we've been taught that "eating better" means sacrificing fun. We've been told it's an All or Nothing game. And we've learned how to punish ourselves for not being able to get it all right.

The truth: eating better doesn't mean giving up all your favorite fun foods and saying no to seasonal favorites. In fact, practicing a healthier food balance where all foods fit will actually make it EASIER for you to honor your eat better goals! And one overeat is not going to sabotage your goals... just like one "perfect" day is not going to fast track your results.

Here are 7 ways to set yourself up for simple eat better wins this holiday season!

how to enjoy a healthier holiday season

Prioritize sleep

You may not think that the amount of sleep you get and you're chances of overeating are at all connected, when in reality, the amount of sleep you get can make a BIG difference in your ability to make your best in the moment choices. When your body doesn't get enough sleep, food cravings tend to spike and your ability to make good choices is often challenged, not to mention you're far less likely to feel or function your best.

And that’s bad news if you want to feel in control around food and make the best choices for you.

Here's how to do it: aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, shutting off electronics at least 30 minutes before hitting the sheets, and choosing sleep over watching Netflix, answering emails, or doing household chores. You'll feel better -- mind and body -- and make better choices too!

Don’t show up starving

You may be tempted to skimp on food before you head out to that holiday party, but think again! The idea that you'll be “saving” calories for later is a big fat myth. In reality, studies have shown you're actually MORE likely to overeat, thanks to a combo of eating fast, feeling famished and seeking quick relief. Plus, when you skip meals, you're more likely to fall into the "I've been so good all day" mindset trap, giving yourself a hall pass to throw your eat better goals out the window and eat all-the-things.

If you've ever tried grocery shopping when you're hungry, you know just what I'm talking about... this is when all those cookies, chips and candies suddenly wind up in your cart (ask me how I know...).

What to do instead: eat a well-balanced snack about 20 to 30 minutes before you head out to your social gathering to reduce ravenous snacking when you arrive. A balanced snack of protein and fiber (such as whole grains, fruits and veggies) will help you feel and function your best while also regulating blood sugar and regulating hunger. That way you can focus on the fun, not just the food, when you arrive at the party.

how to enjoy a healthier holiday

You don't need to "earn" or "burn" food

You might be tempted to eat less throughout the day or ramp up your workouts in order to offset holiday treats, but don't. In the short term this mindset tends to work against you, leaving you more susceptible to overeats and binge eats. In the long term, this tends to lead to disordered eating behaviors, such as under-eating and over-exercising, which are destructive to both your physical and mental health.

What to do instead: aim to stick with your regular food and fitness routines, making your good, better, and best food choices, and moving your body in ways that help you feel your best.

Know you have options

Most of the time you'll find a mix of healthy and not-so-healthy food options lining the buffets at social gatherings. Which is a great opportunity to practice balancing your plate! When you pair fun foods with more nutrient dense ones, not only will you increase satisfaction and satiety, you also remove the "good" and "bad" food labels, allowing foods to co-exist.

Plus, research suggests that you’re more likely to eat the greatest number of calories on your first trip to the buffet table, so you can do yourself a big favor by creating a more balanced plate right out of the gate!

Here's how to do it: look for fruits and veggies. They’ll help to fill you up and save you from a sugar rush later when you nibble on that fun cookie. Plus your body needs the essential vitamins and minerals they contain! And pairing fun with nourishment is easier than you might think. Pick some veggies to pair with a fun dip, whole grain crackers with a festive cheese, or fresh fruit with some chocolates. Prioritize protein to reduce overeats and support healthy body function.

eating healthy during the holidays

Eat mindfully

It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you’re beginning to feel full. In that amount of time, you could easily snack the equivalent of a whole meal without even thinking about it.

Taking a more mindful approach to eating your snacks and meals will help you tune into body's hunger and fullness cues, be more present with your food so you can immerse yourself in the sights, smells and flavors, and increase food enjoyment and satisfaction.

Here's how to do it: a simple way to start is by selecting small helpings of the fun foods you're most excited about and really focus on enjoying them. Eating slowly, chewing each bite thoroughly, and taking sips of water or putting your fork down between bites can help you really appreciate your food.

Once you’ve finished what's on your plate, rather than immediately heading back for more, wait for a bit. Work the room and enjoy chatting with other guests. Take the focus off the food and put it on the event. Check in with yourself after about 20 minutes to see if you’re feeling hungry. If the answer is yes, then go ahead and dish up a reasonable portion. If the answer is no, then get back to mingling!

Mind those liquid calories

It’s not just what you put on your plate that you want to consider, but what you pour in a glass too. Alcohol, sodas and punches are often loaded with added sugars and can quickly add up in calories. That’s not to say that you shouldn't enjoy them, just to be mindful of what and how much you're consuming.

Here's how to do it: balance that fun with other healthy hydration options, such as mocktails, flavored infused water, sparkling water, and herbal teas.

how to enjoy a healthier holiday season

Avoid grazing

Ever feel like you just can't stop revisiting the cookie tray, candy jar, or chocolate covered pretzel dish? If you tend to feel fun foods beckon to you like a siren call, try positioning yourself a little further away from the temptation. This will give you the chance to ask yourself, "Am I hungry?" before making your way back so you can decide if it's worth it. Spoiler alert: there's no right or wrong answer, it's simply a matter of acting with intention.

Here's how to do it: rather than sitting or standing right next to the buffet of food, snack trays, or kitchen island filled with food, fill a small plate of your favorites and walk away to have a seat. When the food is within reach, you're more likely to grab some (and some more) simply because it's there, not because you're actually hungry. And sitting down helps you be more present with your food, rather than anxiously eating and rushing through bites.

Are you tired of starting over every Monday, hopping from diet to diet, wondering if you'll ever get it "right" so that you can lose the weight and become the best version of you? I’ve got you friend! Come join me inside my FREE women’s-only Facebook community: Eat Better with Coach Mindy. It's for busy women like you who are ready to lose weight, gain energy, get healthy and fit -- without restrictive diets or punishing food rules.


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