Some of the best holiday memories are made around the table. Family traditions, time with loved ones and generations sitting together are all part of the joy of the season. It’s a time of year we tend to feel most prosperous and grateful for all we have. It’s also a time when we tend to treat ourselves and indulge in a season-long celebration.
The holiday meal is a practically sacred tradition, but holiday foods aren’t always healthy foods. Even though we’re all celebrating whatever the holiday season means to each of us, we still need to be aware of our overall health in the long term. So, how do we balance our holiday meal cravings and also stay healthy into the new year?
Here are some tips for healthy holiday eating.
Stick to Your Schedule
If you maintain a regular eating schedule during the rest of the year, it’s a good idea to stick to it through the holiday season. If you skip lunch so you’ll have plenty of room for a holiday dinner, you’ll be more hungry than normal and more likely to overeat. You may not be consuming too many more calories for the entire day, but this sort of meal schedule change can lead to a blood sugar spike in the short term, and in the long term it can negatively affect blood pressure and overall heart health.
Practice Portion Control
This is one of the most effective ways to stay lean any time of year. While you’re serving yourself, be mindful of the portion sizes you’re putting on your plate. You can still celebrate your favorite holiday flavors even if you eat less. The smaller your portions, the more room you’ll have to try some extra sides. This is especially true for desserts. If you stick to your favorites and keep the portions small, you’ll avoid overeating, and then feeling over-full, or even having a potentially harmful blood sugar spike.
You could serve yourself on a smaller plate. It fills up faster, looks plentiful, and can satisfy your appetite while keeping portions small.
Take Your Time
Healthy holiday eating isn’t just about what you eat, but how you eat. In fact, if you want to stay healthy,it’s a good idea to eat slowly in general. It helps your body register the food intake so you feel satisfied with fewer calories; it also makes digestion easier and more comfortable. If you eat even more slowly than usual during the holidays, you’ll compound the positive effect and spend more time savoring the celebration of your holiday meal.
Serve Yourself Fruits and Vegetables
If you see some fresh fruits and veggies among the appetizers, dig in. It’s a healthy way to take the edge off your hunger before you sit down to dinner. Even better, you could keep a supply of them in your fridge at home. Add some hummus for a healthy portion of filling flavor. Having a small, healthy snack every so often during the day will keep your hunger in check and might help you avoid oversized party portions. Plus, you’ll be getting the nutrients you need for better overall health even if you sit down to an unhealthy holiday meal.
Continue Your Exercise Routine
You might be a bit more pressed for time than usual during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but exercise is as important as ever – maybe even more so if you’re indulging in a few more festive calories. Stick to your exercise routine, or even step it up a bit if you can. Sign up for classes ahead of time and hold yourself accountable for going. When family and friends come to visit, consider going for a walk together while you talk and enjoy each other’s company rather than sitting and snacking. You can even plan exercise into your social calendar by walking through a festival of holiday lights or shopping mall.
Healthy Holiday Eating Is the Right Choice
If you’re in generally good overall health, you probably don’t have to totally deny yourself the pumpkin pie, or even the occasional alcoholic drink. But remember that food isn’t the reason for the season. At your next holiday party, look around and you might feel plenty of satisfaction beyond the food. Listen to the laughter, the conversation between generations. Be mindful of the time you have together. There’s so much to be grateful for during the holidays, including your health. If you make healthy holiday eating choices, you’re more likely to keep it.