By: Leah Golden M.S. R.D.

We’re well into the Holiday Season, which means you’ve either attended or are looking forward to holiday parties, happy hours, and lunches with family and friends. The festivities are full of traditional sweets, foods, and drinks that fill our hearts and our tummies (sometimes too much) with the holiday spirit. Eating Grandpa’s gingerbread cookies or drinking Mom’s peppermint hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows may give us the warm and fuzzies that remind us of fond memories from the past. These feelings make the season truly magical.

Most party buffet tables are full of sweets and decadent dishes. Grocery stores are full of delicious appetizers and holiday fixins’ to bring home or to a holiday gathering. With so much temptation in every direction, it can be hard to stay on track with your healthy eating and lifestyle. You may find yourself thinking about throwing in the towel and starting fresh with the traditional “New Year’s Resolutions.” As we approach the remaining weeks of the year, keep these tips and tricks in mind to navigate the season to stay healthy, while enjoying the sweetness and excitement of the coming year.

1. Plan Ahead

The time between Thanksgiving and New Years Day is full of holiday get togethers that feel like one big feast. Before enjoying Mom’s pecan pie or your best friend’s yearly pumpkin caramel popcorn, plan for it. The day of an evening party, start with a balanced breakfast. Keep to your regular healthy eating schedule and include a small snack prior to the party; this will help curb your appetite. Planning ahead may also mean you scope out the party buffet to see what appeals to you before filling your plate (especially if you don’t know what will be offered ahead of time). This may help mindless eating or reduce indulging on foods just because they’re in front of you.

2. Portion Control

It’s all about portion control. Time and time again, people try to set rules of cutting out a certain food if they’ve labeled it as “bad,” and ultimately indulge more than they normally would (like eating a whole tray of cookies). If you’re looking forward to having a dessert or particular dish, enjoy in moderation and fill the rest of your plate with healthy options like vegetables and lean protein.

3. Eat Mindfully

Party buffets make it easy to nibble all night while you chat and catch up with friends, distracting you from what you’re putting in your body. Mindful eating means you’re actively paying attention to what you’re eating; noticing how it tastes, texture, smell, and how much you’re actually consuming. Make sure to chew each bite (average of 10-30 times depending on food texture). This will slow down your eating, help with digestion, and give your brain time to sense satiety. With mindfulness, your body will better sense when you’ve had enough to eat. Honor your hunger and satiety cues and stop eating when you feel satisfied (not full).

4. Keep Exercising

This time of year can be busy and stressful for many. With shorter days you may be tempted to skip your workout and go home to cozy up under a blanket. Do your best to maintain some form of exercise, even if it’s not as much as you would normally do. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout or two. Plan daily movement and weekly workouts to keep your mood up, reduce stress, and help with restful sleep. Plan activities with your friends and family that includes movement; go on a hike or a walk, go to a yoga class together before sitting down for coffee, or park further away from the mall when you go shopping.

5. Be a Smart Drinker

Parties and holiday events are bound to have alcoholic drinks. Classic beverages like eggnog and spiked cider are full of sugar and empty calories. Drinking can also decrease inhibitions and encourage unhealthy food choices. If you choose to drink alcohol, make sure to eat a good meal beforehand. Include a nonalcoholic beverage between each alcoholic drink. Try sparkling water with pomegranate seeds or lemon slices to stay hydrated.

6. Are you Thirsty?

Speaking of hydration, the food cravings you have may be misinterpreted as hunger when you’re actually thirsty. Make sure to drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration and decrease the chance of overeating.

7. Be Realistic

The holidays may not be the best time to set major weight loss goals. The season is full of events, food, drinking, and may allow less time for exercise. Many people gain weight over the holidays, so this may be a time to aim towards weight maintenance. Don’t be hard on yourself if your weight loss goals are put on hold for a short period of time.

8. It’s OK to say NO!

Multiple invitations to events may be overwhelming and unrealistic to attend them all. It’s OK to RSVP ‘No’ to some. The holidays are about enjoying the season, which may include some alone time to rest, re-energize, and de-stress. Do the activities that fit into your schedule and keep your stress level low.

The holiday season is about appreciating time with loved ones, being grateful for the good in our lives, and ringing in the New Year with excitement! The season is meant to enjoy. Focus on the fun times with family and friends. Go to holiday parties, drink hot chocolate up at the mountain, make memories, and indulge on a couple pieces of that peppermint bark your work office has laying around😉. Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Holidays.

Cheers to a Healthy, Happy, and Joyous New Year! ~ Leah