How To Eat Better And Still Have Fun This Holiday Season

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

Eating better can seem like a much bigger challenge during the holiday season, especially if you’ve been invited to gatherings and are worried that the festive will derail your goals.

Holiday fun foods can be tempting and the fear and overwhelm of trying to stick to your healthy habit plan while still having fun can sabotage your intentions and if you're not careful, put you in a "screw it!" mindset, where you suddenly find yourself loading up a plate with every cookie, brownie and festive holiday treat.

But I have good news: YOU actually have more control than in these situations than you think.

how to enjoy a healthier holiday season

Get plenty of sleep

You might not think that the amount of sleep you get the night before your holiday get-together will matter much, when in reality, it can make a BIG difference. When your body doesn't get enough sleep, food cravings spike, your ability to make better choices is challenged, and you tend to not feel or function your best... which often leads to tired eating in an effort to feel better, when what your body really needs is sleep.

And that’s bad news if you're trying to feel in control around food and make better choices. What to do? Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, shutting off electronics and choosing sleep over television or chores. You'll feel better and make better choices too!

Don’t show up hungry

If you’re tempted to skimp on food before you head out to your next holiday party, think again! You might think you'll be “saving” your calories for later but you’re actually just setting yourself up to overeat by showing up starving. And when you skip meals, you're more likely to fall into the "I've been so good all day!" mentality, giving yourself the green light to eat All The Things.

If you've ever tried to go grocery shopping when you're hungry, you know what I mean... this is when all the cookies, ice cream and chips show up in your cart. And it's another good reason why you don’t want to show up to those holiday events on an empty stomach.

Eat a filling snack about 20 to 30 minutes before you leave home to reduce ravenous snacking when you arrive at the party. Aim for a snack balanced of protein and fiber (think fruits and vegetables) to help you feel and function your best while also satisfying hunger. This will help you put the focus on the fun not the food at the party.

how to enjoy a healthier holiday

Don’t restrict yourself

You might be tempted to eat less or ramp up your workouts in order to offset all the holiday treat, but don't. This mindset will often only work against you, leaving you more likely to overeat later. When you restrict food and ramp up exercise you wind up thinking about food more, experiencing more food cravings and struggling with low energy. You're far better off to stick with your day-to-day food and fitness routines, making your good, better and best choices as you go.

Look for the healthier options

If there’s a mix of healthy and not-so-healthy choices at the buffet table, it’s a great opportunity to balance your plate with a little of each.

Spot some fruit and veggies? Grab a handful. They’ll help to fill you up and won’t pile on the calories. Pair them with a fun dip, festive cheese, and hearty cracker. Look for protein to help keep you from overeating sweets and make sure to drink your water.

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

eating healthy during the holidays

Eat mindfully

It takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know that you’re feeling full. In that amount of time, you could easily eat the equivalent of a whole meal without even thinking about it.

Take a more mindful approach to your eating and you'll help avoid this. To start, go for small helpings of the fun food you're most excited about and really focus on enjoying them. Small bites and chewing your food thoroughly can be a great way to slow down your eating so you can enjoy more of its tastes and textures.

When you’ve finished, rather than heading back for more, distract yourself for a bit. Work the room and enjoy talking with other party guests to stop mindless snacking. Then check in with yourself 20 minutes to see if you’re hungry. If the answer is yes, enjoy a small serving. If the answer is no, grab a big glass of water and get back to mingling!

Mind those liquid calories

It’s not just what you put on your plate that you need to think about - those liquid calories can add up quick. Alcohol and sodas are empty calories and don’t add any nutritional value at all. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy them, just be mindful of what and how much you're drinking and balance it with water and other zero calorie beverages.

Drinking a glass of water between alcoholic drinks in particular is a simple way to pace yourself and stay healthily hydrated. That way, you can still have a fun time, without going overboard.

how to enjoy a healthier holiday season

Sit away from the buffet

If you tend to feel fun foods beckon to you like a siren call, position yourself away from the food. Rather than sitting or standing right next to the buffet, fill a small plate and walk away. If the food is within reach, you're much more susceptible to mindless snacking, not because you're hungry, but simply because it is there. Plus, the further away you are, the more steps you have to take to get there, leaving you time to think through your choices.

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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