We all know that the holidays are a trying time to stick to healthy eating habits. Starting with Thanksgiving (or Halloween, if you have little kids around!), there’s just so much good food around that it’s hard to eat healthy.
We’re all a little guilty of overindulging during the winter holiday season—maybe that’s why so many New Years’ resolutions revolve around exercise or dieting! But you don’t have to let the winter slump get to you (and your health). You can make—and keep!—healthy eating habits during the holidays. Let’s talk about how.
Have a purpose when you bake
This is one of my personal pitfalls during the holidays. I get so excited around Thanksgiving and Christmas that I bake dozens upon dozens of cookies for no reason in particular. Then I end up with way too many sweets lying around the house… not the best recipe for a healthy holiday season.
When you bake, make sure you always have a purpose. Don’t bake just to bake. You can have many different purposes in baking: you can bake to share desserts with your neighbors, you can bake to spend time with your kids or grandkids, you can bake to bring a family treat to a holiday party. Having a purpose when you bake will help you visualize where the food will go and help keep you on track when it comes to holiday eating.
Focus on the people, not the food
The holidays are really all about coming together with the people you love. So, make sure your eating and dining habits reflect that! Make mealtime a communal time where you spend it with other people—whether it’s friends, family, strangers, or anyone in between. When you make mealtime more about the people you’re with than the food, you won’t be focused so much on what you eat. Plus, you’ll feel happier by being around the people you love.
Out of sight, out of mind
If you have a habit of boredom snacking or eating food when you can see it, it’s time to pack it away. Put tempting foods like desserts or indulgent snacks in opaque containers in the back of your fridge or pantry (or get rid of them entirely). If you can’t see it, you’re less likely to snack on it or think about it throughout the day.
Instead, replace bad snack foods with healthy options! For example, if you normally have a dish of candy out on your table, try replacing it with grapes or a healthy snack platter, like the one in the picture above. When you expose yourself to healthier food options that are right in sight, you’re more likely to form healthy eating habits.
Set a plan
Before you go out to eat or go to a gathering, set a plan for yourself. Know what and how much you are going to eat. If you go into an event with a plan in mind, you’re less likely to overeat and snack on lots of food the whole time.
Try something like this: if you’re going to a family holiday dinner, tell yourself that you’ll fill one small plate up with one portion of protein, one portion of fruit, two portions of vegetables, and one portion of dessert. Having a plan lets you balance out what food you’ll eat in your mind before you get there—that way, it’s less likely that you’ll follow unhealthy habits throughout the night.
This setting a plan tip also works for when you’re just planning meals at home. At the beginning of the week, sit down and plan out each meal you’ll be eating for that week. Knowing what you’ll be eating takes away the stress of last-minute meal prep and helps you make time for healthier habits.
Get a head start on your resolutions
Another thing you can do to be healthy during the holidays is to get a head start on your New Years’ resolutions. There’s no hard and fast rule that says you have to start self-improvement on January 1st! So, if you know you’re going to resolve to eat healthier, start that resolution in November.
Starting your resolutions a month or two in advance will help you nail down your healthy habits. And if you slip up, you always have that re-boot of energy and resolve coming at you on January 1st to kick you back into gear. Plus, if you can stick to your resolutions through the holiday season, you can stick to them through anything.
Find winter physical activities
One reason why it’s particularly hard to stay healthy during the holidays is that it’s difficult to find as many physical activities to do during the winter months. In the summer, it’s natural to go outside for a walk, to garden, or to go to the pool. But in the winter, the cold air and occasional snow flurry just makes us want to stay inside with a mug of hot cocoa!
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many fun things you can do to keep your physical activity levels up during the winter. You can take walks, enjoy the holiday light decorations, play in the snow with your kids or grandkids, ice skate, and do much more during the winter. Just remember to bundle up before you go outside!
Don’t keep a stash
One of the biggest healthy eating pitfalls comes from keeping a stash of “splurge food.” Keeping a stash of anything—whether it’s ice cream, candy, chocolate, or something else unhealthy that you enjoy—is setting you up for failure. Knowing that you have a stash of unhealthy food will only tempt you to break your healthy eating habits. So, get rid of that stash! Save the indulgent foods for special occasions.
Alcohol is a big barrier between people and their healthy living goals. There’s a whole slew of health problems that can come along with drinking alcohol, so we won’t go into too much detail here, but just know keep in mind that healthy living doesn’t just mean eating healthy food—it means drinking healthy drinks, too!
Keep your drinking tightly moderated. Stick to wine over hard liquors. Break each drink up with a glass of water and a bit of food. You can still drink and enjoy yourself during the holidays, but just don’t go overboard.
Find light versions of your favorite dishes
Holiday food, while delicious, can be extremely unhealthy. One thing you can do to make your holiday eating a little healthier is to find low-fat, low-calorie, or sugar-free versions of your favorite dishes. Baking lighter versions of holiday favorites is a great way to feel better about baking (and eating!) normally very unhealthy foods.
Everything in moderation
Some people think that eating healthy means never eating any dessert, ever. That’s not necessarily true! The healthiest of lifestyles can be lived by taking everything in moderation. You don’t have to totally avoid the dessert table at a dinner party to be healthy, and you don’t need to feel guilty about taking an at-home day where all you do is curl up by the fire with a warm blanket. It’s all about finding that balance that works for you.
So, go ahead, enjoy holiday desserts! Take a movie break every once in a while! Maintaining balance is key to living a truly healthy, rewarding lifestyle.
The holidays are a time for fun, family, and community, and a large part of this season revolves around food. We want to help you live your holiday life to the fullest—and that means building and maintaining healthy habits! We hope these tips have given you some ideas on how you can stick to healthy eating through the holiday season.
What healthy traditions do you and your family share during the holiday season? Tell us about it in the comments section below!
Happy (healthy) holidays from all of us here at SkyBlue!