Oh yes, it’s that time of year again when the holiday festivities (aka less than healthy food choices and eating habits) kick-off with nibbles on that bucket of leftover Halloween candy, onward during Thanksgiving, and through family and holiday gatherings in December. They come to an end (thankfully!) with a New Year’s Day brunch or afternoon spread to indulge in while watching a football game or two.
While it’s easy to throw up your hands during these two months and throw caution to the wind, that’s not the best choice for a waistline or health in general. And you do have a choice! How about this year you take on a new attitude to deal with the onslaught of indulgence this time of year?
Your new attitude? Believing that you can enjoy myriad holidays festivities while you, generally speaking, practice healthy holiday eating, albeit with a sprinkling of splurges.
Here are 10 tips for healthy holiday eating:
- Increase, or at least maintain, your physical activity routine. One way to combat those excess calories consumed, is to burn more calories. While more activity won’t completely erase large indulgences, sticking to your exercise routine, or better yet stepping it up a notch, can offer a bit of counterbalance to excess calorie consumption.
- Structure your meals and mealtimes as much as possible. Hopefully you’ve got some structure to the meals you eat and the times you eat them. Maintain this structure as much as you can other than when hosting or attending holiday festivities. Eating healthy meals and snacks at regular times can help you stay on track.
- Create easy-to-fix festive, low or no-calorie beverages. There’s no need at parties you host or attend to use up precious calories on beverages loaded with calories and added sugars (save those calories for bites of sumptuous foods!). Make and serve or bring festive beverages made with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. To whet your taste buds take a look at this Sunshine Punch Recipe (only 30 calories per serving) or Elegant Eggnog Recipe (only 100 calories per serving in an eggnog!).
- Set a healthy table for your parties. Be a role model. Maybe friends and family members will follow suit. When you plan your holiday spread menus make sure to serve at least some healthy options. Consider raw vegetables with a healthier dip like Sweet Red Pepper Hummus. Make sure fresh fruit is also available and dress it up with a sweet tasting dip like Pineapple Yogurt Dip.
- Offer to bring a healthier beverage or dish. Everyone at the gathering will benefit from having at least one healthier item on the table. Plus, it helps you to know there will be at least one healthy option for you. There’s absolutely no reason your healthier beverage or dish needs to be boring. Healthy recipes for the holidays abound. For starters scroll through loads of SPLENDA® holiday recipes here.
- Explore your and your family’s expectations around food for the holidays. Consider a conversation about a few changes that you all are willing to make, so it’s easier for everyone to eat just a bit healthier. Or just go ahead and introduce a couple healthier recipes or menu items. Begin this year by creating a new holiday tradition for yourself and your family members that includes healthier eating.
- Don’t allow foods that challenge your resolve to cross the threshold of your home. It’s OK that you don’t purchase or bring to your home some of your family members’ holiday favorites if you simply can’t say no to them. If they do enter the front door via your guests politely offer the leftovers to them or other guests. Do whatever you can to avoid having these items sit around begging you to eat them.
- Skim and trim the calories from fat. Fat is a concentrated source of calories that add up quickly. As you’re able with your holiday cooking and eating look for ways to use less fat, such as butter, oil, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream, cheese and more. For example, substitute a lower calorie ingredient, such as Greek yogurt for some sour cream in a dip. Use low fat cheese rather than full-fat in cooking.
- Limit calories from alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverages can add significant calories and lessen your resolve to eat healthier. Use these tips. Alternate one no or low-calorie drink with an alcoholic beverage. Enjoy a glass of wine, then sip a tall glass of club soda. When you choose an alcoholic beverage, limit the calories by choosing wine, light beer, or a shot of liquor on the rocks or with a non-calorie mixer like club soda, diet tonic water, water or diet soda.
- Practice portion control strategies at parties. Holiday parties often consist of a wide array of foods on a buffet table where you help yourself. Apply these strategies to hold the line on calories. Opt for a small plate. Do a visual inspection of the spread before you start to fill your plate. Then fill your plate mainly with healthier items (if you can find them). Don’t deprive yourself by avoiding the more decadent items, just take, taste and enjoy small amounts of them. Limit your trips to the buffet. Lastly, position yourself as far from the food as possible and keep a beverage (see strategies above) in your hand to make it more difficult for you to nibble.
Happy and healthy holidays to you and yours!
Did You Know?
The holidays are a great time to get together with friends and family, but too much pie, mashed potatoes and other seasonal treats can lead to the dreaded holiday weight gain, as reflected by responses to this informal online survey (pdf). More details here.
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, is a nationally recognized dietitian and diabetes educator who applies more than 35 years of expertise as an author, freelance writer, media spokesperson, consultant and diabetes educator. Hope notes: “Healthy eating today is one tough job! The good news is that simple tweaks in your food choices and how you prepare foods can often set you on a path to healthier eating. Each positive step is a step in the right direction along the path to a long and healthy life.”