This time of year, healthy eating is hard.
Even if you’re someone who sticks to a healthy, nutritious diet most of the time, there’s lots of temptations that go along with holiday eating.
Lots of casseroles, desserts, and endless buffets piled high with deliciousness. Lots of things other people cooked, made or baked that you don’t know the ingredients of.
So, how do you navigate all the food offerings, stay on track, and not feel like you’re missing out on all the good stuff? Here are our top three healthy holiday eating tips for navigating holiday eating.
1. Skip the Dip
Often times at holiday parties and gatherings, there’s tons of appetizers – bite size things you can pick up and grab and pop in your mouth. They’re super convenient, but also super easy to overeat on, because they’re so easy.
Make sure you snack in moderation, and don’t snack mindlessly. And when it comes to the appetizer table, skip the dip.
Typically party dips are high in calories and low in nutrients. You’ll probably see a lot of cheesy dips, ones made with melted cheese, or sour cream, or sometimes even out of a container from the store masquerading as homemade.
They’re accompanied by no shortage of crackers, chips, melba toast and other processed grains to use as transportation for the dip.
Instead, try to stick with the snacks you know and recognize – raw veggies, a small handful of nuts, sliced meats, and other snacks that are familiar or identifiable.
Healthy Holiday Eating Hack: If you can’t resist the dip, then take a small spoonful onto your plate to control the portion, and use veggies instead of chips or crackers!
2. Limit the Liquor
Or beer, or wine, or…
Why is it that when you’re at a party, and you don’t have a drink in your hand, people feel the need to mention it or ask about it? And why is it that we feel “empty handed,” like we don’t know what to do with ourselves, when we’re not holding one?
It’s easy in large social situations to feel like you need to be doing the same thing everyone else is doing. Everyone else is having 12 drinks? I will too!
But maybe they’re not. You don’t know if they’ve been nursing the same drink all night, or if their drink has any alcohol in it at all. It’s amazing what we perceive and assume in life without knowing any actual facts.
Maybe it’s been a long year. Maybe you’ve stuck to great eating habits all year, and you want to take a break, or maybe you’ve had not-so-great eating habits all year and you don’t see a point in starting to be health conscious now. Why not just wait until next year?
Remember, you don’t have to drink. You don’t have to have a drink in your hand. Let yourself have one or two drinks if you want them. Denying yourself will only make it worse, and can result in over-indulging later on.
Once you’ve had your one or two, stop. And when someone asks you why you’re not drinking (which quite frankly is none of their business), if you tell them you’ve had two and that’s your limit for the night, who knows – maybe you inspire them to skip their third drink as well!
If you’re the host, perhaps choose a mocktail to offer people as well!
Healthy Holiday Eating Hack: If you don’t want to drink, but don’t want to be empty handed, get a glass of seltzer or club soda with a lime. It looks like a cocktail and everyone will be none the wiser. You don’t feel awkward, they don’t ask questions, you save the calories and the hangover. Win win!
3. Pass (on) the Pie
Oh, the dessert table. How we love you so.
And what’s not to love? Desserts this time of year are beautiful – cakes, pies, cookies. Frosting, whipped cream, icing. So much sugar.
Even better, they’re often cut into large pieces, or set out uncut so you can cut your own. Cookies are easy to pop one by one, right into your mouth, and you can walk by that dessert table and grab another without anyone really noticing, right? (We know, because we’ve done it!)
But just like the alcohol, the desserts will make you crash and burn. They’re loaded with sugar that will cause you to hit a spike or “sugar high” and then come crashing down, leaving you hungry again.
There will always be more pies, and cakes, and cookies, and more parties. Choose to feel better in the long-term rather than giving into your craving in the short term. If you get home and still feel like you need something sweet, have a small piece of dark chocolate or some fruit.
Healthy Holiday Eating Hack: If you’re at the party with a partner or friend, ask them if they want to share a piece of dessert. You both get to indulge a bit, and get to taste that one pie you couldn’t resist, but you only consume half the calories and feel better about your choices.