Tips and Tricks for Healthy Holiday Eating

Most of us look forward to the season’s big holiday gatherings as occasions to relax, be with family and friends, and celebrate the good things in life. And of course, we love the food. The more we look forward to it, the harder it seems to control ourselves. But with a little planning, and these easy tips and tricks, healthy holiday eating can be easy to manage.

Load Up on the Vegetables

If your relationship with vegetables is complicated, this one might not seem that easy. Time to work on that relationship. All vegetables are more lovable when prepared with the right skills and imagination. And it’s never been easier to learn interesting ways to prepare such classic holiday veggies as green beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Just a few minutes’ research can pay off with great flavors.

Also, try eating all your vegetables first. You’ll still have room for the meats and desserts. But you’ll be starting from a more satisfied place.

Eat Slowly and Mindfully

You’ve been looking forward to this meal. Now that it’s here, don’t rush it. Before digging in, take a moment to appreciate the aspects of the food that don’t involve getting it into your belly. Appreciate how good it looks and how good it smells. Take the time to compliment the cooks.

And even after you lift your fork, take the time to truly experience what you’re doing. Chew slowly and completely, and put your utensils down between bites. Engage in the conversation. Drink some water. As you progress through the meal, ask yourself: “Am I still enjoying this?” If the answer is no, or even a weak “sort of,” take a break for a while. You can always go back for leftovers.

Alternate Between Alcohol and Water

If alcohol is part of your merry gatherings, proceed mindfully. The empty calories add up fast, and of course overindulging can make a good time miserable in a hurry. Feel better throughout your celebration, and after, by having water between drinks and by limiting your overall alcohol consumption to just a few drinks.

Don’t Skip Meals

You may be tempted to skip breakfast or lunch, expecting to overindulge at the big celebratory meal. This strategy tends to lead to overeating at the big meal, so make sure you have all your healthy smaller meals of the day, as well as a healthy snack before the big event. Looking for great healthy snack ideas? You can hardly do better than these commonly available superfoods.

Eat What You Love, Including Dessert

We realize some of you might read this as a contradiction of our earlier advice about the vegetables. Don’t skip the vegetables. But balance all that you eat with the foods you really, really enjoy. Like skipping meals, denying yourself those foods that you love will only lead to overindulgence in the future. Just make sure you savor each bite of your favorites, so that you won’t be tempted to overdo it.

The same goes for dessert. Most holiday meals feature not just one, but several favorites. If you get that familiar twinge of “This is my one chance all year to try all of Aunt Bea’s and Uncle Dee’s special pies/cakes/puddings/etcetera,” go ahead. Just limit yourself to a very small portion of each. And make every bite count.

Walk It Off

After the eating is done, finish up with a brisk outdoor walk or other exercise with family and friends. This will kick-start your digestion, burn off a few extra calories, and help get your mind off food. Until the next big get-together, anyway.

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