10 tips for staying on track this holiday

If you are in the middle of making diet or lifestyle changes, navigating the holidays can be trying. Below, Elle Stronczek, registered dietitian, offers 10 tips for staying on track with your goals during the holiday season.

  1. Remember your goals.  If you are working toward making healthier life choices, don’t let holiday get-togethers throw you off track. Keep your goal in mind when making food or beverage choices and you’ll be less likely to over indulge.
  2. Practice mindfulness.  If you practice mindfulness when eating already, don’t forget to apply the same principles at holiday parties! Slow down, taste each bite and interact with those you are sharing your meal with. Holiday parties may often seem like they’re about the food, but don’t let the treats get bigger than the real reason you are gathered with your friends and loved ones.
  3. Limit alcohol.  Alcohol provides empty calories and has negative effects on health when over consumed. Drinking in moderation would be one drink per day for women and men over the age of 65, and two drinks per day for men aged 65 years and younger. One drink is defined as 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, or 1.5 oz spirits. Instead of alcohol or to limit alcohol, try soda water with a splash of cranberry juice. Garnish with cranberries for a fun holiday beverage that is alcohol-free.
  4. Don’t deviate from the norm.  When trying to plan ahead for a holiday party, the thought may cross your mind to skip meals beforehand – don’t! It’s unlikely that skipping a meal will save you from over eating. It’s better to have a healthy snack consisting of a carbohydrate and a protein before your event, which will help you start off on the right foot and avoid over eating. Some snack ideas would be whole grain crackers with nut butter or cheese, an apple with nut butter, or Greek yogurt with nuts.
  5. Smart food choices.  When building your plate, devote half of it to non-starchy vegetables. Fill one quarter with a lean protein, and the other with a complex carbohydrate. This way, you’ll create a plate that has healthy proportions of carbs and protein and will set you up for success! If you know you’re going to indulge in a favorite food, try to plan accordingly; Pay attention to portion sizes and what else you put on your plate.
  6. Be present. Shift your focus to the people you are surrounded by. Make an effort to have meaningful conversations and remind yourself it can be about the people, not the food.
  7. Bring your own healthy dish or host.  A simple way to ensure that there will be healthy options at holiday events is to bring your own healthy side, or host! This way you can feel good about what you’re putting on your plate and others may have the opportunity to try something new. Try a winter fruit salad as a dessert option, or for a side try roasted vegetables or a warm spinach salad. 
  8. Don’t restrict favorite foods.  Some of your favorite holiday memories revolve around food, and many traditions are started around meals or cooking with friends and/or family. If you’re feeling anxious about saying no to a favorite, it’s better to have a small portion than cultivate a negative relationship with eating. If you know you’re going to indulge on a favorite food, try to plan accordingly; Pay attention to portion sizes and what else you put on your plate.
  9. Stay active.  Start an after meal tradition of a short, brisk walk. This is a good way to combat the post-meal slump and brings another opportunity to spend time with family and friends that doesn’t revolve around food or drinks.
  10. Forgive yourself.  If there are any tips that you take away from this list – let it be this one: Forgive yourself if you do over do it! If you have diet/lifestyle-related goals, an extra dessert or helping of your favorite side is not going to derail your efforts or ruin your chances of achieving your goal. Filter through the negative thoughts and move forward. Remind yourself to focus on the big picture. Holiday favorites are foods we may look forward to eating all year long and/or have an emotional tie to. As stated before, it’s better to enjoy your holiday favorites than cultivate a negative relationship with food or feel guilty about eating something you enjoy.


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