Updated: Mar 18
Eating healthy can seem like a much bigger challenge over the holiday season, especially if you’ve been invited to parties and are worried that the temptations will sabotage your healthy eating efforts.
Holiday treats can be super tempting and derail your good intentions but there’s the good news - you’re much more in control than you might think and there’s plenty you can do to stay on a healthy track so you can feel your best, mind body and sprit while still having fun this holiday!
Get plenty of sleep
On paper, you might not think the amount of sleep you get the night before will matter too much. In reality, a bad night’s sleep can mean that you consume hundreds more calories the next day. And that’s bad news if you want to avoid calorie heavy and unhealthy party food. Try to get an early night's rest before holiday gatherings and you'll reduce your risk of overeating.
Avoid the hangry
If you’re tempted to eat little to nothing before you head out the door, think again! You might assume you’ll be “saving” your calories for later, but you’re more likely to be giving yourself the green light to eat a lot more than you intended.
If you’ve ever walked into the grocery store hungry only to find yourself grabbing everything in sight and suddenly drawn to all the tempting junk foods, you know how walking into an event hungry can create opportunity not making the best food choices. Not to mention how this impacts your mood, energy and attention for the night.
It’s fine to leave a bit of room for fun and festive food but don’t be ravenous when you turn up. This is a surefire recipe for wanting to eat everything in sight and feeling stuffed and frustrated later.
Eating a nutrient dense snack around 20 to 30 minutes before you head to your event can be a great way to hold you over and reduce mindless munching at the party. Nosh on some nuts and dried fruit or a an apple paired with peanut butter and your stomach (and mind) will thank you!
Don’t try to "diet"
Tempted to eat less or work out more in order to offset upcoming events? This can work actually work against you as you’re more likely to overeat when you finally get there after restricting yourself all week. You’re better off sticking to your normal healthy eating and exercise routine, fixating less on weight loss and more on feeling and moving healthfully. Setting yourself up to "diet" during the holidays will typically lead to an increase in calorie consumption and skimping on exercise as a result of feeling overwhelmed, restricted and frustrated. Instead focus on eating healthier 80% of the time and leave room for planned indulgences the other 20%. That way you'll feel stratified not restricted.
Lean toward healthy
If there’s a mix of healthy and not-so-healthy choices at the buffet table, it’s the perfect opportunity to make sure that you are able to load up on what will leave you feeling your best, physically and mentally.
Spot some nuts or fresh fruits and veggies? Load up! They’ll help to fill you up and you won’t pile on empty calories. Be mindful of dips and sauces and go sparingly, a little flavor can go a long way. Guacamole and hummus dips are good choices but most other dips will be a bit of an empty calorie bomb.
Research suggests that you’ll eat more calories on your first trip to the buffet table so you can do yourself a favor by leading with a healthier foot, making you less likely to overdo it later.
It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know that you’re full. In that amount of time you could easily have eaten the equivalent of a meal without even thinking about it.
Taking a more mindful approach to your eating can help you avoid this. To start things off, go for small portions of the foods you fancy and really savor every bite. Small bites and chewing your food thoroughly has been shown to increase meal satisfaction.
When you’re done, bring your focus back to the party, the people and conversations. Work the room and enjoy chatting with other party guests to reduce the urge to mindlessly snack, then check in with yourself 20 minutes later to see if you’re really still hungry. Chances are, you’ll find that you’re not.
Don’t forget about liquid calories
It’s not just what you put on your plate that matters, liquid calories also count and they often add up more than you think. Alcoholic drinks and sodas are full of empty calories and don’t add any nutritional value at all. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy them, just in a mindful way, realizing what and how much your are consuming.
A great way to slow down the sips is to drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks (or other festive sugary beverages) to help pace yourself and keep you adequately hydrated. That way, you can enjoy without the risk of going overboard and feeling not so fabulous later.
Choose your seat wisely
Really don’t trust yourself not to keep making trips to the buffet? Position yourself so that you’re not standing anywhere near it. If the food is within reach, there’s so much more potential for mindless snacking even when you’re not at all hungry. The further away you are, the more you have to make a conscious decision to walk over to the buffet.
Are you are a woman who is ready to live healthier and happier, ditch the diet, and discover small steps that make a big impact so you can live a life you love in a body you are proud of? Come join me inside my women’s-only Facebook Group - The Healthy Habits Club. It's where busy women go for tips, tools and support so they can eat healthy, move daily, and feel good for life!