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Making Healthy Choices During the Holidays

For those of us who are trying to eat healthier, the holidays can be a veritable minefield. The seemingly endless stream of events with family, friends and work often comes with an equally endless stream of food and drink. Many choose to simply say, “Whatever!” and worry about it in January during new year’s resolution time.

The good news is, most people gain less than a pound during the holiday season, so there seems to be a limit to how much we indulge. The not-so-good news is, that’s about the same amount of weight that people gain from year to year, meaning that the holiday season probably accounts for more weight gain than the rest of the year combined!

Realistic Expectations

With that in mind, the holidays are not a time to set goals for weight loss; most people are pulled out of their normal routine in one way or another, and people who lose weight during the holidays have likely done so by opting out of events they would otherwise attend if it weren’t for the food and drink, or missed out on some of their favourite holiday treats. (Or they’re sick, so they’re doing the above unwillingly.)

However, we all know the uncomfortable feeling of eating too much at family dinner, or drinking too much at a holiday party. Even if you keep one of the following tips in mind at your next event, hopefully you will get to enjoy the holidays feeling a little better and healthier, and get a head start on your new year’s resolutions!

Vincci’s Top 5 Tips for Making Healthy Choices During the Holidays

1. Don’t get hangry.

Why?

While a certain level of hunger is normal between meals, when we are so hungry we get a little *ahem* moody, we tend to crave richer, “heavier” foods and larger portions.

Put This Tip into Action!

Don’t skip meals in an effort to “save up” your calories for Christmas dinner or a holiday buffet. Instead, eat like you would on a normal day – ideally every 3-5 hours – including a small snack right before you head out. During the meal, slow down and enjoy it mindfully – you may find that it doesn’t take as much to leave you satisfied.

2. Limit liquid calories.

Why?

Liquids don’t fill us up in the same way that solids do, so we don’t compensate for the extra calorie intake by eating less. Imagine having a glass of wine versus a glass of water with dinner – you probably won’t be eating less on account of the wine! Many of the drinks we have during the holiday season – think: alcohol, eggnog and flavoured coffees – also tend to be nutrient-poor.

Put This Tip Into Action!

Limit your booze intake by offering to be DD every once in a while, or alternating with a glass of water between drinks. Choose pure alcohol over cocktails to avoid the extra calories of mixers, and pour yourself standard portions to make it easier to track how much you’re drinking. For those who drink more calories from non-alcoholic drinks, like plain eggnog or specialty coffees, choose smaller portions of lower sugar, lower fat options.

3. Be a picky (but polite!) eater.

Why?

t’s natural to want to at least try a little bit of everything when there is food in front of us. During the holidays, that can mean a lot of high-sugar, high-fat, high-salt treats. Taking the time to make choices that fit with your own health goals will get you one step closer to achieving them.

Put This Tip into Action!

Survey all the food choices at the dinner table before diving in to avoid putting too much on your plate. Set boundaries for yourself, like only serving yourself once, or only indulging in treats available at this time of year.

4. Fill half your plate with vegetables.

Why?

Eating healthier does not have to mean eating less and depriving yourself! Shifting your food choices to include more vegetables means you still get the same amount of food, but fewer calories and more nutrients.

Put This Tip Into Action!

Serve yourself the veggies first, so that they take up half of the plate immediately, as opposed to trying to make room between the turkey and mashed potatoes. If you are the host, find recipes for healthy and delicious sides that will encourage people to eat them. Fruit-based desserts, like wine-poached pears, chocolate-dipped strawberries and fruit crisps are great choices – while some may still be calorie-dense, they offer vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre that can’t be found in a brownie or gingerbread cookie.

5. Celebrate the season without food when possible.

Why?

Food is often an integral part of any celebration, not just the holidays. It can be a fun challenge to see if you and your family are able to have a good time without food, and perhaps start a new tradition!

Put This Tip Into Action!

There are lots of family-friendly winter activities, from skating and skiing to tobogganing and snowman-building. Even going out carolling with your neighbours or decorating the house can get your body moving. If you’d rather stay inside, play games and read holiday stories together – you don’t have to be active! Be careful – many of these activities often still involve food (think: ice skating and hot cocoa) so it will be a challenge to break the association!

What are some of your healthy holiday tips? Please share them in the comments below! Check out my article and healthy recipes in last year’s December issue of Culinaire for additional tips.

4 Comments

  • Karen on Dec 15, 2015 Reply

    Excellent suggestions for managing food and drinks during the holidays Vincc. Thanks.

    • Vincci Tsui on Dec 15, 2015 Reply

      Thanks for reading, Karen! Happy holidays!

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