11 Tips to Make Better Food Choices During the Holidays

The holidays are a magical time full of family, festivities, and endless fun. However, the holidays may also come with their share of stressors, including spending time with family, traveling, budgeting for gifts, and more. Additionally, food is always in abundance this time of year, which can add more temptation and stress to your already-full plate. From your work party, to the neighborhood social, to your family’s holiday feast, rich and delicious foods are typically easier to come by for weeks on end. Most people go into the holiday season expecting to pack on a few pounds, and many deal with guilt in the midst of the holiday season and a great deal of regret after the season has passed. Rather than eat yourself sick and regret your food choices later, go into your holidays with a plan and some advice on how to make better food choices during this time of year.

If you have questions or concerns about your weight, your diet, or your overall health, NCHS can help.

Tip #1: Acknowledge the Temptation

There’s no benefit in telling yourself that you won’t struggle with making food choices this year, or that you won’t worry about what you are or aren’t eating. Denial is not an effective solution. Instead, acknowledge the temptation that you’re likely to face and start wrapping your mind around some effective strategies to improve how you feel at the end of a big party or at the end of the holiday season. Recognize it for what it is—temptation—and focus on how best to handle it in the midst of the most tempting moments, and you’ll likely be well on your way to a guilt-free but still enjoyable holiday season.

Tip #2: Offer to Bring a Dish

If you get invited to a party, offer to bring a dish, and then make it a healthy one. That way, even if everything else being served isn’t nutritious and supporting your health goals, you know you’ll have at least one dish that is better for you that you can fill a majority of your plate with.

Tip #3: Minimize Alcohol Consumption

The holidays are the most common time of year for people to justify drinking an excess of alcohol, but that doesn’t need to be the case. If you want to have a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail, you can. In support of your health goals, know that alcohol can still be enjoyed in moderation. Keep in mind that alcohol provides you empty calories that you don’t need, and can diminish your inhibitions and clear thinking, leading to you to potentially making unhealthy choices when it comes to your diet.

Tip #4: Don’t Be Unrealistic – Aim for Balance

There’s no use in telling yourself that you’re only going to eat one cookie during the entire month of December. By thinking that way, you’re setting yourself up for failure before the festivities have even begun. Allow yourself to eat the things you want to eat, but do so in moderation. If you want to try multiple desserts on the table, you can. Try taking just a small piece of each. Be mindful that you’re not only eating portions of the sweets—try the healthier foods, too! You should aim for a balanced diet as much as possible during the holiday season, and just accept that some additional sweets will be included in what you’re eating.

Tip #5: Start with Veggies

Peruse the food table at parties before you start piling the food on your plate. When it’s time to fill your plate, start with the veggies. Allow them to take up at least half the plate, and then add smaller portions of other foods to your plate afterward. You can also start eating your vegetables first. Vegetables will help you get full faster and will help you get more nutrients, meaning you may not be hungry enough for that extra slice of pie or that extra serving of cheesy potatoes.

Tip #6: Savor Each Bite

Mindfulness plays a huge role in healthy eating. It’s not just about making good food choices and ensuring those healthy foods get on your plate– it’s also about truly savoring each bite of those delicious, rich foods you’ve been craving since the last time you ate them. Close your eyes when you take a bite of pie, or eat smaller bites of that brownie to ensure you get all the satisfaction from consuming it. At the same time, try to avoid mindless eating, such as when you’re standing near the food table talking and munch on different foods for far too long. Be conscious of what you’re eating, how it tastes, and how it makes you feel.

Tip #7: Don’t Let a Slip-Up Sideline You

Let’s say you’re going strong with making good food choices for the first few holiday parties, and then that work party just knocks you backward a peg. There are literally zero vegetables at this party, so you fill up on homemade macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, buttery rolls, and all the cake and cookies you can find. You know you slipped up and made some bad choices, and you feel really guilty about it. Acknowledge it for what it is, but then move on with a renewed sense of motivation. Don’t just throw it all to the dogs and decide that since you didn’t do it perfectly, you just aren’t going to do it at all anymore. One meal doesn’t define your entire diet, so simply get back on track at the next meal and resolve to make healthy choices moving forward.

Tip #8: Don’t Skip Meals

A lot of people choose this tactic to try to “save calories,” but it often leads to excessive overeating and is a bad habit that should be avoided. It is better for your overall health to eat normal-sized meals leading up to a big holiday dinner and just eat in moderation at that special occasion dinner. It’s also possible that skipping meals will make you feel sick and leave you less hungry than if you had just eaten normally, which means you wouldn’t get to enjoy the fullest extent of that party food, anyway. Aim to eat a well-balanced diet throughout the day, even on days with big get-togethers, and that will help you continue to make good choices in what you eat throughout the entire holiday season.

Tip #9: Stay Active

Healthy eating is about far more than just eating—it’s also about the choices you make to maintain your health and wellness. Staying active during the holiday season is a great way to hold yourself accountable to making healthy choices and minimizing poor food choices. Not only will it help you with digestion and absorption of key nutrients, but it will also keep you burning calories and getting some fresh air. Something as simple as a post-dinner walk will help you substantially. Make it a family affair to enjoy staying active even more, maybe by going ice skating, completing outdoor chores, or just walking through the neighborhood together.

Tip #10: Get Enough Sleep

A lack of sleep can not only impact your health in and of itself, but it can also lead to you making poor food choices. Sleep-deprived individuals often have harder-to-control blood sugar, meaning you won’t feel great and you’ll be looking for snacks far more often than you should be. Exhaustion also leads to generally worse decisions, including poor food choices. It’s easy to stay up late when family is around and everyone is enjoying each other’s company, but you need to prioritize sleep even during the holidays so you can have a clear mind and can make the best healthy eating choices all season long.

Tip #11: Focus On What’s Truly Important

It can be easy to get caught up in and distracted by all the stressors and temptations that come around this time of year. Try your best to keep some perspective and remember that at the end of the day, it’s not about gobbling down all the desserts or making yourself feel guilty over that one cookie. It’s about spending time with your loved ones and focusing on the blessings in your life and being appreciative of all you have.

If you have questions or concerns about your weight, your diet, or your overall health, NCHS can help. We have several clinic locations across the North San Diego and Riverside counties and can assist you in  meeting a variety of your health care goals.