Wherever you are on your health and weight loss journey, you aren’t alone in your struggle to maintain balanced nutrition during the holidays. Holiday meals are part of the joy of the season. So, instead of skipping parties and family gatherings, indulge with intention. The tips below support your objective of healthy holiday eating, without giving up the foods you love.

#1 Consider Healthier Recipes

The key word here is “consider”. While all holiday recipes can be made with less sugar or fat, not all should be. Why? Because many foods are only prepared this time of year. Also, your go-to holiday recipes are a mix of culture, tradition, and nostalgia. Thin includes beloved family recipes passed down through the generations.

So, consider which recipes are too special to change, and which are less of a priority. Be sure to get family in on the decision, so no one feels deprived of their holiday experience. Don’t forget to test the new recipe ahead of time to ensure it’s delicious.  

#2 Plan Your Splurges

This time of the year requires the most willpower as temptation is everywhere. Sweets at parties and events, unexpected treats at the office, temptation in the grocery store, and indulgent food gifts.

So, plan when you’re going to splurge in advance. This should include full splurge meals (or days) where you eat everything your heart desires. For example, eat whatever you want on Thanksgiving Day, but only indulge in dessert and champagne on New Year’s Eve.

To honor the joy of the season, your splurge meals and days should be guilt-free. One meal, evening of drinks and desserts, or day of indulgence won’t lead to weight gain. Holiday weight gain arises from weeks of indulgence.

So, enjoy—it’s only once a year!

#3 Bring Healthy Snacks

Even if you don’t typically bring snacks with you, now is the time. Stash baggies and containers of your favorite healthy snacks in your purse, desk drawer, and in your car. Maybe some refrigerated snacks at the office. When you feel tempted to indulge in the holiday cookies a coworker unexpectedly brought to the office, you have something to snack on instead.

Ensure your snacks aren’t just “healthy” but that they satisfy your love of sweet or salty. As always, be mindful of portion control.

A few healthy holiday snacks to consider include:

  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit
  • Dark chocolate
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Non-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Veggie chips

#4 Don’t Skip Meals

The mindset of not eating all day so that you can indulge in planned holiday eating, or not eating tomorrow, doesn’t “even” things out. Diet culture keeps us so focused on counting calories, that we forget that food is fuel. In reality, skipping meals is more likely to leave you eating more during your planned splurges. It also runs the risk of placing your body in starvation mode, where it holds on to fat because it isn’t sure when it will have nutrients again.

On top of that, vitamins and nutrients are essential for maintaining energy, mood, and cognitive performance. Also, for ensuring you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced.

So, instead of skipping meals, prioritize nutrient-dense, well-balanced meals. You might even want to eat more vegan meals this time of year to aid digestion and kick natural cleansing up a notch.

#5 Be Mindful of Seasonal Beverages

Indulgent holiday foods aren’t the only thing to be mindful of, but also the many seasonal beverages. Before you drink, consider the sugar and calorie content of your beverages. You may also be tempted to drink a bit more alcohol this time of year.

Creative marketing makes it difficult to maintain willpower. Even a trip to your favorite coffee shop can be a challenge.

For example, a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha contains over 2 days of sugar:

  • 440 calories
  • 16 grams of fat (10 saturated)
  • 54 grams of sugar
  • 13 grams of protein

As always, look for ways to minimize calorie, fat, and sugar content without sacrificing the seasonal flavors you enjoy. For example, a Peppermint Mocha has 4 pumps of both peppermint and mocha sauce. Order it with 2 pumps each to decrease the sugar content by 22 grams without sacrificing flavor.

Or order a standard latte and save your splurge for a more intentional treat.

#6 Stay Hydrated

It’s generally more challenging to stay hydrated during the winter months. In the spring and summer, it’s hot, so the risk of dehydration is top of mind. Also, cold beverages are more refreshing when temperatures are high, and chilling when it’s cold. So, many of us forget the importance of hydration this time of year.
In addition to your body’s general need for hydration, water is required for proper digestion. Also, for flushing your body of the increased level of toxins in the indulgent foods you eat. Proper fluid intake also makes you feel fuller faster and remember that your thirst pangs may actually be hunger pangs.

So, carry your water bottle with you. If you prefer, drink your water at room temperature. Also, drink more unsweetened herbal tea, for both warmth and antioxidants. 

#7 Move More

Your social schedule is likely to be busy this time of year, making it challenging to maintain your workout schedule. If needed, head to the gym less and work out at home more. You can find free workouts of every kind on YouTube and a variety of free and paid fitness websites and apps.

In addition to maintaining a regular workout schedule, search for opportunities to move more throughout your day. This isn’t just to burn more calories, but to activate your body’s circulation, digestion, and metabolism.

The more you indulge in holiday foods, the more your digestion is likely to be disrupted. The more you move throughout the day, the more you support your body in self-regulating.

A few easy ways to move more include:

  • Walk short distances
  • Walk during your lunch break
  • Double your dog walking time
  • Take the stairs
  • Stand while working
  • Dance at holiday parties
  • Stretch while watching TV
  • Get up and play with your kids
  • Intentionally park further away
  • Stand during commercial breaks
  • Ride your bike short distances
  • Use your fitness tracker for reminders
  • Plan active dates and social activities

#8 Eat Before You Arrive

Another way to achieve your objective of healthy holiday eating is to snack or eat before you arrive at a party or event you haven’t planned to indulge. If you’re already full, it will be easier to pass up on the tempting foods. If you’re hungry, it will be difficult to decline.

For example, if you’re heading to a cocktail party after work that will be serving less-than-healthy hors d’oeuvres and sweets—eat beforehand. This might include a protein-rich snack or an early dinner.

Even if you’ve planned a splurge or two for the evening, party, or event, eating a healthy snack before you arrive makes it easier to indulge in moderation.

If you’re going straight from work, bring dinner to work, order in, or stop by a restaurant or deli with nutrient-dense options.

#9 Manage Your Stress

The holidays can be as stressful as they are joyful. Sometimes, more stressful than joyful. This added stress makes it even more difficult to choose healthy holiday foods. Or to eat and indulge in moderation.

Common holiday stressors include:

  • Getting all of your work done before vacation.
  • Having to work during the holidays.
  • Keeping the kids engaged while on break.
  • Family and friends staying at your house.  
  • The pressure of what parties, events, and dinners to attend.  
  • The anxiety of family tension and conflicting personalities.
  • Trying to find the perfect gift for everyone or for someone who has everything.
  • Hosting at your house and cooking for a crowd.

The increase in stress combined with your busier-than-usual social calendar can keep you up at night or disrupt your sleep schedule. Studies find that every hour of decreased sleep can lead to eating 270 more calories per day!

Sleep is also when your body heals and repairs. So, insufficient sleep can decrease metabolic function, which is the rate at which you burn calories.

Stress also increases the risk of comfort-driven holiday eating. Comfort eating is a method of self-soothing. It provides a short-term sense of control and satisfaction but often leaves you feeling worse after you indulge.

Be as proactive (and reactive) as you can to keep holiday stress to a minimum.

We’re Here to Help

Valley Medical Weight Loss and Med Spa can help you maintain your health objectives and weight this holiday season. From our AfterMeals™ digestive enzymes to our nutrient-rich Skip-A-Meal Shakes, and a variety of Scientifically Proven Weight Loss Solutions.

Here’s to fun and healthy holidays!

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