Healthy Eating Possible During the Holidays

Healthy eating habits normally go to the wayside during the holidays, but they don’t have to. People can do several things to continue eating right from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. By making smart decisions at different gatherings and activities, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll also not start January with a few extra pounds.

Most of these tips are simple and won’t affect your overall celebrations:

  • Don’t deprive yourself. You love a certain holiday treat, but since it’s high in calories you vow not to eat it. But decisions like that often end up backfiring. You don’t eat the special treat, but instead eat several other, less satisfying foods. The end result? You end up feeling bad that you missed out on the special treat, but you didn’t come away with a big calorie deficit.
  • But don’t overdo it. This is a follow-up to the first tip: Yes, you can have your aunt’s homemade fudge, but don’t overdo it. Figure out how much a serving is and stick to that.
  • Eat before the big event. Heading to a Christmas party or getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner? Don’t starve yourself all day. Eat something with protein beforehand so you don’t arrive completely famished, which can lead to overeating.
  • Skip the snacks … or just stick close to the veggie tray. Think about what foods you enjoy most and “spend” your calories there rather than on chips. Another benefit to not filling up on snacks? You’ll have more room for those foods you truly enjoy. You don’t want to over indulge on snacks and then not have enough room for the homemade stuffing.
  • Watch what you drink. Alcohol is full of empty calories. Grab some sparkling water and sip on that rather than other drinks with a higher calorie count. Another bonus – because drinking weakens your willpower, you would less likely have a second piece of pie or another helping of potatoes.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix it up. The Internet is full of healthy versions of holiday favorites. If you’re cooking the big dinner, consider trying a new recipe. You may find a new family favorite. Another idea is to serve appetizers that aren’t loaded with calories. Think shrimp and whole wheat crackers rather than just a plate of cheese.
  • If you mess up, get back on track. You overdid it on Thanksgiving so you think “What’s the point?” and then continue the unhealthy eating habits right through the weekend. If you wind up eating too much at a party or family gathering, acknowledge it to yourself and start the next day committed to eating healthy. Don’t use one bad day of eating as an excuse to eat whatever you want until Jan. 2.
  • Get moving. Throughout the holiday season, keep up your normal exercise routine as much as possible. Go for a walk after Thanksgiving dinner, but before pie. The exercise will not only burn some calories, it will also help reduce stress, which, besides food, is also plentiful during the holidays.

By making careful choices, you can continue healthy eating habits right into the New Year and hopefully avoid the 1 to 5 pounds that the average American tends to gain between Thanksgiving and the end of December. Remember the reason for the holidays – and focus on enjoying time with your family and friends rather than just what’s being served for dinner.

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at scott.schuldes@thedacare.org.