Healthy and Happy Eating around the Holidays

Guest Blog Post – Elysse Thebner, MPH/RD Candidate

The Holidays are coming up quick, which usually means it’s time for family and friends, gathering, cold weather – and inevitably the fear of overeating. For some people, Thanksgiving and the holidays can also mean high levels of stress and anxiety, particularly for those who struggle with eating disorders and disordered eating. Here’s a quick guide to help you make the most of your holiday season without all the stress, guilt, anxiety, or belly-aches.

  • Set healthy, realistic goals: be realistic about your goals. Don’t try to gain or lose weight during the holidays, focus on maintaining your current weight.
  • Don’t let yourself get too hungry: before you go to a holiday party, remember there will likely be lots of delicious food options to indulge in. Try to eat a light, balanced snack before you go, such as a piece of fruit with some yogurt or peanut butter, a granola bar, half of a sandwich, or some soup about an hour before leaving. That way you have better control over food selections and portion sizes at the party.
  • Don’t skip: Skipping meals earlier in the day will increase the likelihood of you overeating, because your blood sugar will drop and you’ll be over-hungry – setting yourself up to over-do it at meal time.
  • Visualize your day: Take some time to picture what your ideal holiday would look like. Think through your day in a positive way, such as how you will handle stress of guests, family and friends, and food.  It will be much easier for you to have a relaxing holiday if you have already visualized yourself doing so!
  • Choose wisely: there will be plenty of options, but if you’re trying to choose healthier options, choose more of the fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and seafood. This will allow room for a holiday dessert!
  • Slow down and eat mindfully: If you are concerned about overeating, remember to eat slowly and savor these special holiday foods – some of which you only get to eat once a year. Eating slowly will allow you to appreciate these foods and recognize when you’re full.
  • Eat a balanced meal: aim for a good source of protein, such as seafood, lean meats, and tofu; a healthy starch, such as whole grain pasta, quinoa, or brown rice, and balance it with a healthy portion of fat, such as avocado or olive oil. The fat and protein slow digestion and pack a bunch of healthy nutrients. This will help you feel satisfied, and keep you fuller longer.
  • Watch the alcohol: Keep in mind alcohol does contribute many calories to your intake, so watch your consumption of wine, eggnog, beer, punch, and spirits. Also keep in mind alcohol lowers blood sugar and inhibitions, increasing the likelihood of overeating or binge eating.
  • Guilt-free eating: While it’s perfectly normal to feel a twinge of guilt when faced with or consuming a lot of food, remember that guilt is often what we feel when our expectations and our behaviors don’t match.  Try to shift your expectations – allow yourself some wiggle room to eat what you want, so you won’t feel guilty when you decide to help yourself to another serving.
  • Chill out: While celebrating the holidays can seem like a great idea, in reality being around family and friends can be quite stressful. Try to manage your stress with sources other than food – take a walk, visit a friend, or put on some music.
  • Move: Even if the weather outside is frightful, try to get exercise on most days before they get too crazy. Even a brisk walk or stroll will help with digestion, stress relief, and fitness. If over-exercise is a trap for you, remember your moderation goals. This will help you stay in control.
  • Stay positive: Remember to focus your thoughts on the positive aspects of the holidays. Thanksgiving is a time for being grateful – think about everything you do have and try to avoid thinking about what you don’t have.
  • Enjoy: the most important tip here is to remember to enjoy your friends and family, and try not to over-think food.