Everyone looks forward to the joy and spirit of the holidays ahead, and though we each have our own special events, traditions, and holiday activities we are excited about, but the one thing that we all look forward to is the food.
Plate after plate of potatoes, beans, turkey, pie, and sugar plums dance through our heads all season long, and come dinnertime, we can’t wait to stuff our faces full of our favorite holiday treats. Though overeating may be a bit of a holiday tradition, it does not have to be the way you approach your holiday meal.
There are a lot of great reasons to eat healthy portions and foods this year, but the best reason of all is that you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Binging on candy canes and third helpings of sweet potatoes may feel good in the moment, but it is counterintuitive to the commitments you’ve made to yourself to treat your body well.
Choosing not to overindulge is easier said than done, especially when you’re facing a myriad of holiday parties at work, at friends’ homes, and in your own home.
But don’t give up just yet! Here are some great tips that can help you steer clear of the desire to overeat at this year’s holiday festivities.
When you are planning your own meal, even for a large family gathering, you are in control of the meal plan, so be sure to load your menu full of healthy options (i.e., vegetables that are not swimming in cream and butter).
Giving yourself and your guests equally tasty but less caloric food shows them that you not only care about your health but theirs as well. Offering a variety of foods to your family means that you have options, and hopefully, this will make you more inclined to choose healthful foods over fattening ones.
If that plate of potatoes and gravy looks too good to pass up, have a small portion—but not just yet. Start your meal by first eating a large salad. After ten minutes of chewing on your greens, your stomach will begin to fill up.
Now here’s the important part: listen to your stomach’s fullness signals and approach your next round of food accordingly. Take small portions of food next, and see how your stomach feels as you eat mindfully. As soon as you feel those fullness signals, it is time to put the fork down; not clean your plate.
Don’t forget to give away lots of those leftovers. Removing the temptation to pick and overindulge once the house clears is a great way to prevent fixating on the food after the holiday.
At a Restaurant
If your family celebrates holidays at a restaurant, not overeating quickly becomes all about portion control and food selection.
If you are at a buffet, do not take the “all you can eat” theme seriously. Buffets are designed to allow us to overindulge, so by choosing a smaller plate and loading it up with vegetables, grains, and healthy proteins before you dig into carbs and sweets, you are far more likely to fill up on the good stuff before anything else passes your lips.
If you are eating family-style, sharing plates with the rest of your family, be sure to balance the food choice with a healthy option. Most restaurants have vegetarian options which tend to be lower in calories and fat than other meals, so opt to go green for your food choice, and make that plate the largest portion of your meal.
Go ahead and skip taking home those leftovers, especially if you know you may be tempted to overdo it when you get home.
At Holiday Parties
Your office wants you to have a lot of fun and relax during the holiday party, so they’re going to put out tons of catered food loaded with fats, oils, and calories. The key to avoiding the worst of the food at holiday parties is to be your own best guardian against overeating.
Before you even show up to the event, eat a healthy meal at home. You will be far less inclined to splurge on unhealthy foods if you are already full.
At parties, people tend to congregate around the food tables as though holiday food is the central theme of the party, but that doesn’t mean that you must join them there. By steering clear of the table, you are unlikely to pick and snack as you chat with your coworkers.
At a Friend’s House
More than anywhere else, the pressure to eat a friend’s house during the holidays can be overwhelming. Your friend went through a lot of trouble to prepare a meal and was thoughtful enough to invite you, so you will have a natural inclination to demonstrate your gratitude by cleaning your plate after taking seconds and thirds.
This year, though, tackle the problem of overeating before you arrive. Bring a healthy side dish to add to the meal, and be sure to indulge in it. Dishes like roasted butternut squash salad, sautéed greens with lemon and almonds, or roasted brussels sprouts will be welcomed dishes at any meal, and they will fill you up without the extra calories.
Before you head to the party, treat yourself to a light, healthy snack. An apple, some baby carrots, or a fruit smoothie will help curb your appetite until dinner.