Managing Holiday Eating for a Happy, Healthy Season

November 13, 2023

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‘Tis the season to… overindulge?

From Thanksgiving feasts to Christmas cookies, it’s easy to overdo it when it comes to food and drink this time of year. While a bit of indulgence can be part of the fun, overdoing it can leave you feeling sluggish and regretful. 

This holiday season, focus on finding balance and moderation in your food choices. With some preparation and mindful strategies, you can maintain your health and still enjoy the celebrations.

Understanding the Holiday Eating Challenge

Holiday gatherings tend to center around food. From hearty appetizers to decadent desserts, there are temptations around every corner. It’s so easy to overeat when presented with an endless buffet of delicious options. 

On top of that, the holidays can be an emotional time. Feelings of stress, anxiety, or loneliness may lead to emotional overeating. By recognizing these challenges and being mindful of them, you can be better prepared to deal with them in a healthy way.

Setting Realistic Goals

Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. Set modest goals that support your overall health and happiness. Aim for balance and moderation, not rigid restriction. 

Focus on the journey of mindful eating rather than getting wrapped up in numbers on the scale. Be compassionate with yourself if your choices are not always ideal. Progress takes time, so celebrate the small wins and take pride knowing you’re iterating toward lasting health and wellness.

Preparing for Holiday Gatherings

Plan ahead by having healthy recipes and ingredients on hand – you have total control over what you bring. Scope out the menus and nutrition information if it’s available. 

When it’s time to eat, choose lighter appetizers and dishes with more veggies. Fill up on fiber-rich fruits and vegetables first. Use the plate division method – fill half with non-starchy vegetables. Watch portion sizes, especially with calorie-dense foods.

Smart Substitutions

Get creative with healthier swaps for traditional dishes. Here are a few to try:

  • You could use Greek yogurt or avocado in place of sour cream. 
  • Try swapping out butter for heart-healthy olive or avocado oil. 
  • Pumpkin puree is a great way to reduce the fat in baked goods as well. 
  • Boost nutrition with added veggies and fruits. 
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit desserts.

Mindful Eating and Portion Control

Slow down and savor each bite. Check in periodically to see if you’re truly still hungry – there’s a chance you might just be thirsty! Have a drink of water, and see how your body feels to determine whether or not you’re hungry. 

Portions are much larger than they’ve ever been, and it can be hard to understand what the right portion for you should look like. A great way to avoid overeating is by using smaller plates and glasses. You can always bring home the leftovers to enjoy the delicious holiday food another day. 

Staying Active

Physical activity is an essential component in maintaining a healthy balance during the holiday season, especially when indulgent feasts are the order of the day. Here’s how you can incorporate it into your holiday routine:

Post-Meal Walks for Digestive Wellness: Following a hearty holiday meal, consider incorporating a post-meal walk into your tradition. A stroll around the neighborhood or a nearby park not only allows you to enjoy the crisp, fresh air (and the holiday lights!) but also aids in digestion. Walking after a meal can help prevent that uncomfortable feeling of fullness, reduce bloating, and keep your energy levels steady. It’s also an excellent way to engage in quality conversation with family and friends.

Plan Active Outings with Loved Ones: One of the joys of the holiday season is spending quality time with family and friends. So, why not make those moments even more memorable by planning active outings together? Consider going ice skating at a local rink, going on a scenic hike in a nearby nature reserve, or organizing friendly backyard games like touch football or a game of frisbee. These activities not only get everyone moving but also foster a sense of togetherness and shared experiences and can help reduce stress during the holiday season.

Indoor Adventures for Chilly Days: When the weather turns frosty and outdoor activities become less appealing, there are plenty of fun indoor options to keep the whole family active. Many communities offer indoor swimming pools, a fantastic way to stay active and warm. Consider a game of indoor basketball at a local gym, a rock climbing session at an indoor facility, or joining a fun and engaging exercise class. These indoor options are not only great for physical health but can be a fantastic way to meet new people and make friends in your community.

Take it slow – it’s not about extreme workouts during the holiday season; it’s about finding enjoyable ways to stay active, promoting physical and mental health throughout this special time of year.

Managing Stress and Emotional Eating

The holiday season often brings about heightened levels of stress, loneliness, anxiety, and even depression for many people. These emotions can, in turn, lead to unhealthy patterns of emotional eating and overindulgence in food. To help manage these challenging feelings, it’s essential to prioritize things that help us feel our best. Here are a few ways you can do just that:

Prioritize Self-Care: Incorporate activities like meditation, yoga, massages, or counseling into your routine. These practices can help you better cope with the emotional demands of the season.

Get Adequate Rest: Getting enough sleep is vital for emotional well-being. Sometimes, stepping away from the hustle and bustle can provide the mental space you need to regroup.

Establish Boundaries: It’s easy to become overwhelmed with holiday obligations. Don’t be afraid to set clear boundaries. Learn to say ‘no’ when necessary and prioritize activities that genuinely bring you joy and fulfillment.

Identify Your Triggers: Reflect on the specific emotional triggers that might lead to stress eating, whether it’s family conflicts, financial pressure, or feelings of loneliness. Be prepared with healthier alternatives to cope with these triggers. Reach out to a friend for support, keep a journal to express your emotions, or take a soothing walk to clear your mind.

Focus on the Positives: Concentrate on the positive aspects of the holiday season and what you can control. Celebrate the moments of joy, gratitude, and connection with loved ones. 

By embracing effective coping strategies and nurturing self-love, you can successfully manage stress and prevent emotional eating during this season of celebration.

Enjoying Treats in Moderation

Savor a small serving of your favorites mindfully. Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” as this can lead to guilt and cause us to feel down on ourselves. Focus on how certain foods make your body feel and tune in to natural hunger cues. Find the right balance to feel satisfied but not uncomfortably full. It’s all about moderation!

Celebrating Traditions Beyond Food

One of the lesser-known ways to manage eating during the holiday season is by shifting focus to traditions outside of food. Here’s how:

  • Create homemade gifts for loved ones. 
  • Give back with volunteer work. 
  • Focus on activities like singing, games, or quality time together. 
  • Start new rituals that nurture your soul. 

The holidays are so much more than just the food. The key is balance. 

Finding Balance And Moderation During The Holiday Season

The holidays are a time for joyful celebrations, meaningful traditions, and cherished moments with loved ones. With mindful preparation and self-compassion, you can safeguard your health and partake in the feasts and festivities in moderation.

Want help achieving balance and moderation this holiday season? Download the Fresh Tri app

With simple recipes, meal plans, and nutrition tips, Fresh Tri makes it easy to iterate toward lasting health and wellness during the holidays and all year round.

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