Eating healthy over the holidays can be a challenge, but it’s certainly not impossible. In fact, some people are even able to continue their weight loss journey through November and December all the way to the New Year.
Here are a few tricks to help everyone make some healthy food choices at holiday parties and family meals over the next several weeks.
1. Bring Your Own Food to Family Gatherings
One of the best ways to stick to a healthy nutrition plan during the holiday season is to prepare and bring a dish from home when attending parties or family gatherings, whether the occasion is a potluck or not. That way, no matter what food is being served, at least one major entrée will be healthy, rich in nutrients, and low in calories.
2. Eat Slowly and Engage in Conversations
Another easy trick at holiday meals (or for any meals year-round) is to eat the food slowly and to jump into the conversations at the table. That’s really the whole reason everyone is getting together in the first place – to visit with each other and catch up on what everyone has been up to all year.
One recommended strategy is to place your utensils down on the table after taking a bite and then not reach for them again until that bite has been chewed 20 times and swallowed. Combine that strategy with Mom’s favorite – don’t talk with food in your mouth – and that small plate of food can last quite a while.
This approach might sound a little old-fashioned, but it will help keep a slow, steady pace. This allows the stomach to fill up sooner, with less food being consumed overall.
3. Fill Your Plate with the Healthiest Options First
When filling up a plate with all those wonderful dishes laid out on the table, the healthiest options should be the first to be chosen. If there’s a salad or some other fresh, raw vegetables, then that’s the first stop. Next, move on to cooked veggie dishes and low-fat proteins and sides – or low-carb dishes, for those following a low-carb diet.
This tactic ensures that more vitamins, minerals, and fiber will be consumed, and it will usually also mean less calories being eaten as well. Choosing nutrient-dense foods over calorie-dense ones is one of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight.
4. Skip the Snacks
If following a calorie-restricted diet, it is very important to keep snacks from sabotaging the holidays. Many people overeat at family gatherings and mindlessly filling up on calorically-dense snacks is a common way to do it.
Veggie platters are the exception, as filling up on raw carrots, celery sticks, cauliflower, and broccoli is a great strategy. But those ranch and bleu cheese dips need to be avoided or only enjoyed sparingly. Nutty cheese spreads, chips, and crackers should probably be skipped entirely.
Remember: Consuming less pre-meal snacks will allow more foods to be enjoyed during the main meal later on. The sacrifice will be worth it!
5. Share Your Desserts
And speaking of sacrifice, nobody needs to be a martyr and skip dessert entirely. Because of their high-sugar and high-fat content, most desserts need to be sampled rather than indulged in. An easy way to accomplish this is to grab a slice of this and a piece of that – and then share it with a spouse, sibling, or other favorite relative. Chances are good that there will be others around the table who are also trying to watch what they eat and don’t want to go overboard on the sweets, so it’s a great opportunity to team up on those dessert platters and help each other out.