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Photo Credit – Healthy Gallatin

The holiday season is truly a special time, but it can also be a very stressful time. If you’re an emotional or mindless eater, food can easily become your go-to even more than usual. There is less time for yourself, more eating out, and more temptations that you may feel inclined to overeat on a regular basis just because.  For one or two days, this is no big deal.  But, if you’re doing this for a month, or two, this can really throw off your routine and your best efforts to eat healthy during the holidays.  

The good news is if you follow a few simple habits, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the holiday season and your food without worrying about weight gain.  And even better, this could be the first year where you don’t have to make a new year’s resolution to go on another diet. 

Here are 10 tips to feel great this holiday season, instead of overly full and guilty.  

1. Keep snacks on hand.

Having a supply of snacks for the road trips will be a life-saver, especially for the kids.The worst thing is having to stop at a rest-area, and pay twice as much for trail mix, when you could have made it at home. If you’re flying, then I’m sure you know how expensive airport snacks can be, so its great to have some easy snacks on hand for the trip.

Here are a few ideas:

-Kind bars

-Whole fruits (bananas, clementines, apples)

-Mixed nuts or homemade trail mix with dried fruit – Air popped popcorn

-Low-sugar granola

-Beef jerky (Lorissa’s Kitchen)

2. Don’t feel pressured to eat anything and everything.

Somehow holiday parties always have enough food to feed three times the amount of people that actually arrive, and seeing the endless amount of food can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. You feel like you should try every side and every dessert, but you know that you will be so overly full so you’re not sure how to manage.

If you’re torn between trying different sides, pick your favorites or pick the dishes that you know you will enjoy. Don’t put the creamed corn on your plate when you know it’s only mediocre.

3. Don’t skip meals to “save room” or “save calories.”

We’ve all heard the famous phrase before: “I’m saving room for dinner.” Skipping breakfast and/or lunch so that your stomach will have more space to indulge at dinner will only make you feel uncomfortable. By the time dinner is served, you’ll probably be so hungry that you scarf down your meal. Make sure you eat breakfast and lunch, similar to what you’d normally eat. You don’t have to have huge meals, but at least have something light and balanced to hold you over through the day.

4. Remember that this food is available ALL year long – it isn’t any more special because it’s on a holiday.

I think we forget that grocery stores still sell turkey, ham, and pumpkin pie all throughout the year. Don’t put the stuffing or sweet potato casserole on a pedestal when you can just as easily make it the next day. This will also help take away the pressure of feeling like you need to eat everything.

5. Slow down and practice mindful eating.

It’s even more important during the holidays to eat mindfully.  Of course, this can be easier said than done.  It can be easy to forget to savor the food when we are sitting at a table full of family and friends with conversations flowing in every direction. Instead, use this time to celebrate the meals and chew each bite, enjoying the flavors. This will help you to slow down before you rush up for seconds.

Consider portion sizes as well: Just because there are ladle-size scoops in each dishdoes not mean that you have to take a ladle-size scoop. Even ask for a smaller spoon if you don’t want to take too much.

Do a hunger check before you leave the house, and if you are beginning to feel hungry, have a small snack to hold you over. When you arrive, you won’t be starving and ready to eat every appetizer in sight.

6. Don’t stand near the hors d’oeuvres table.

Catching up with distance relatives is such a joy, but standing right next to the lavish charcuterie board might be an easy way to mindlessly eat. You casually eat one piece after another without realizing, and all of a sudden, you’re full before dinner is served. If you know that you might be an appetizer-lover, go into another room, or move the conversation away from the food.

7. When dining out:

While traveling, you might be dining out, taking breaks away from the home cooked meals. Remember to practice mindful tips, such as s maller portions or asking for the dressing on the side. Even start with a side salad and ask to have half of your meal packaged to-go.

8. Fill the plate with veggies first and then add your starch & protein.

The island of food might be strategically placed so that all of the vegetables are at theend of the line, but don’t let this deter you. Try to fill your plate with your vegetables first, so that you feel fuller with fewer calories. Overloading the plate with mashed potatoes, rolls, and stuffing will cause you to feel sluggish and bloated. Not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy those sides, but be mindful of the veggies and try to prioritize those first.

9. Accept that you may be out of routine for a few days, and that’s okay.

Traveling and staying with family members or friends can definitely throw your normal routine out of whack. The most important thing to remember is that it’s only temporary. Try to incorporate small pieces of your daily routine while you are away. If you like to meditate in the morning, keep to it. Add in some movement throughout your trip, like getting the family to go for a walk in the morning or after dinner. The fresh air is always an added bonus, especially after you’ve had a big meal.

10. Don’t place so much emphasis on the food – after all, it will be there again tomorrow and the day after that.

Just as these holiday dishes are not any more special because they happen during the holidays, remember that this is a great time of year to catch up with family and friends.

Shift the focus to spending time with family, enjoying sports, and any other traditions. Be excited for things that are not food-related, and embrace them!  You may realize you were missing out on some pretty cool things because you were spending time focusing so much on the food.

I hope you have an amazing happy and healthy holiday season!!