Eating better can seem like a much bigger challenge during the holiday season, especially if you’ve been invited to social gatherings and worried that those fun and festive treats may derail your goals.
Holiday fun foods can be tempting and the fear of missing out and overwhelm of trying to stick to your healthy eating goals while having fun too may cause your inner critic to try and sabotage your intentions.
Maybe you walk in, committing 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 during the holidays and decide to give up until January 1.
Here's what you need to know: eating better doesn't have to mean sacrificing fun. And it's a heck of a lot easier to honor your eat better goals and make room for fun when you have a healthy habit foundation.
Check out these seven ways to set yourself up for success this 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'm talking about... this is when all the cookies, ice cream and chips wind up in your cart. And it's another good reason why you don’t want to show up to holiday gatherings on an empty stomach.
Eat a nutrient dense snack about 20 to 30 minutes before you leave home to reduce ravenous snacking when you arrive at the party. A balanced snack of protein and fiber (think fruits and vegetables) will help you feel and function your best while also satisfying hunger. This will help you put the focus on the fun, not just the food at the party.
Don’t restrict (or punish) yourself
You might be tempted to eat less or ramp up your workouts in order to offset all the holiday treats, 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 only wind up thinking about food more, experiencing increased food cravings and struggling with low energy. You're far better off to stick with your regular food and fitness routines, making your good, better and best food choices as you go and moving your body in ways that help you feel your best.
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. Pairing fun with nutrition!
Spot some fruit and veggies? Grab a handful. They’ll help to fill you up and balance out any simple carbs. Pair them with a fun dip, festive cheese, or hearty cracker. Look for protein to help keep you from overeating on sweets and to help keep you feeling full longer. 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.
It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know that you’re feeling 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 your eating will help you tune into hunger and feelings of fullness. Start by selecting small helpings of the fun foods you're most excited about and really focus on enjoying them. Small bites, chewing your food thoroughly and taking sips of water can be a great way to slow down your snacking so you can enjoy more of the yummy food flavor.
When you’ve finished what's on your plate, 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 in 20 minutes to see if you’re hungry. If the answer is yes, go ahead and dish up a reasonable portion of something. If the answer is no, get a big glass of water and enjoy getting back to mingling!
Mind those liquid calories
It’s not just what you put on your plate that you want to think about, but those liquid calories too. Alcohol and sodas are often empty calories that can be full of sugar, salt and other chemicals that do nothing for you. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy them, just be mindful of what and how much you're consuming and balance it with other zero and/or low calorie beverages, like herbal teas, mocktails, and flavor infused water.
Drinking a glass of water between alcoholic drinks in particular is a simple way to pace yourself, stay healthily hydrated and avoid the mindless munching that can often occur after a few drinks. It's a good way to set yourself up to have fun, without going overboard.
Sit away from the buffet
If you tend to feel fun foods beckon to you like a siren call, position yourself a little further away from the food.
Rather than sitting or standing right next to the buffet of food, fill a small plate and walk away. If the food is within reach, you're more likely to grab more simply because it's there, not because you're actually hungry.
Plus, the further away you are, the more steps you'll have to take to get back there, leaving you some extra 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.