One down, only two more to go! I used to have that attitude towards the holidays at a time when I was more concerned about the calories and fat going into my mouth vs. the real meaning of this time of year. I’m thankful to be past that food-guilt stage of my life, but for many, the holidays bring on a serious struggle between one’s health and food. Especially if you are trying to follow an overall healthy lifestyle and feel pressured by all the goodies impacting your holiday eating plan. I think it would be different if the holidays were really just “one” day. Let’s be real: most TV commercials for the holidays include indulgent foods and most grocery stores have the baking section fully stocked for cookies and treats! So how do we truly live this season of thankfulness and joy to the fullest, without obsessing over the extra calories and fat? Here are a few strategies that have worked for me to eat healthy during the holidays:
- Drink water.
Yep, good old, plain water. You’ll play less mind games with yourself if you fill up on a glass of water vs. a glass of wine. Skip the wine? Who do you think I am?! Just make sure you have that water nearby, or alternate between wine (or cocktail of your choice) and water throughout a holiday party.
- Go for the “good” stuff first.
You heard me right. Whether it’s a buffet table with appetizers and desserts or a family style sit-down dinner, put the calorie-laden foods on your plate first. You really want them, and unless you have cheesy potatoes for dinner every week, there’s no harm in adding them to your plate before the green salad. Now hurry up and read #3 to see where I’m going with this one.
- Eat mindfully.
Mindful eating is something that I learned a lot about when I was going through my struggles with food. Take the time to enjoy each bite of food and if you can, put your fork or plate down between bites. Eat when you arehungry- you don’t have to run straight for the food when you arrive at a party if you are not hungry. Visit with friends and grab that glass of water (as suggested in #1). On the contrary, if you are hungry, go and eat! The longer you wait the more likely you’ll choose larger portions. And lastly, pay attention to what and how much you are eating. It helps me to use the smaller appetizer plates when I’m nibbling on party snacks. The smaller plate not only means less room, but it makes me really think about what I actually want to choose!
- Bring the “healthy” option.
This one is actually my favorite tip— and expected of me as the registered dietitian in the family. I’ll typically bring the unique, healthy appetizer or side dish to our holiday gatherings. That way if there are leftovers, I’m usually going home with them or I can keep a little extra in my fridge.
- Walk off the stress.
The holidays bring on lots of stress— many times these stressors can trigger mindless eating (eating when you are not hungry, rushing through meals, eating at all hours of the day). As cliché as it sounds, try to remember the reason for the season. Instead of catching up with family members in front of the dessert table, get on those winter coats and go for a walk with hot cocoa, or pick a quiet corner in the house and visit.
- EAT BREAKFAST!
I can’t emphasize this one enough. In preparation for a big holiday party or feast, do not skip meals throughout the day, especially breakfast, as this may result in overeating. In fact, research shows that those who eat this important morning meal tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day.
- Prep #6 ahead of time (to save you time).
I’m sharing one of my favorite weekday breakfast recipes [hint: you make it the night before!] that’s good enough for any time of the year!
Easy Pumpkin Butter Overnight Oats
- 3 cups of old-fashioned oats
- 1/4 cup of peanut butter
- 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt (I used vanilla flavored)
- 1 cup of non-fat milk
- Melt the peanut butter in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Mix the oats, peanut butter, pumpkin, chia seeds, and cinnamon until combined.
- Add the yogurt and half of the milk. Stir to combine. Then add to an air-tight container.
- Top the mixture with the rest of the milk. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 8-10 hours (the oats needto be soft).
- When you are ready to enjoy,portion into 1/2-3/4 cup servings. If the oats mixture is too thick for your liking, add more milk! Also consider eating in the microwave for 15 seconds. Enjoy!
Serving suggestions: You can swap out the pumpkin and peanut butter for other add in’s, such as whole or chopped nuts, dried or frozen fruit, and honey.