The holiday season is upon us again, with lots of indulgent, sugary foods that leave us feeling lethargic, a little fuller around the middle and regretful come January 1. However, the holiday season doesn’t have to be that way, and we CAN have a healthy holiday!
During the holidays and throughout the year, use a mindful approach to eating by focusing on tasting and really enjoying your food. If you don't care for a certain dish, you can kindly pass and opt for the foods that are more to your taste. Enjoy favorite holiday sweet treats in smaller servings and be conscious of your fullness level. Taking a break from a large meal when you’re comfortably full may leave more room for a small piece of dessert.
The holidays are filled with family, parties, traditions and lots of yummy, festive food. Research shows adults usually gain some sort of weight over the holidays. But don’t despair – it’s possible to make smart, healthy decisions while still enjoying yourself. The American Heart Association offers strategies and mindset shifts to beat temptation and get through the holiday season without stress eating, weight gain and digestive issues:
Get creative with swaps: Cooking at home is a great way to take control of your diet and tweak favorite seasonal dishes. Reduce sodium by replacing salt with herbs and spices, adding more fruits and vegetables to dishes and using low-sodium canned and frozen products. Combine lower-sodium foods with regular versions to help your taste adapt.
Snack smart: To avoid overindulging at holiday gatherings, prep with nutrient-rich foods that don’t sacrifice taste, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk products, lean meats, eggs, beans and nuts. Enjoy the satisfaction of making healthy choices and forego the high-carbohydrate snacks and sugary treats.
Take your time: Don’t rush through meals and slow down when you eat. Enjoy mealtime with family and friends by pausing between bites and savoring your food. Experience the holidays for what they are and find balance between celebration and relaxation.
Practice gratitude: It can help lower blood pressure, improve your immune system and spur you to eat better and exercise more. Write down five things you’re grateful for and share them with your family and friends. Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving. Aim to enjoy the sweet blessings of life instead of the sweet treats and enjoy lasting healthful benefits.
Instead of focusing entirely on food during gatherings, shift your attention to enjoying the time with your family and friends. Create engaging experiences that involve activities and interactions with others!
We all want to have the capacity to celebrate the holidays with thankfulness without the worry of putting on those extra pounds. Food does play a part in celebration gatherings, but it doesn’t need to take centerstage and sabotage your journey to health. You can get on the other side of the holidays without giving up being healthy.
Heather Boline, RD, LD, is a Freeman Health System clinical registered dietician. She graduated from Kansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics. A registered dietitian for more than 30 years, she has been with Freeman since 2004.