If you’re committed to healthful eating, the thought of holiday parties may find you wanting to curl up under a blanket until they pass. So much easier than facing things like sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, cookie trays, and frosted stollen,
But hiding out is hardly your only option. Here are 10 tips for eating well, feeling good, and celebrating the season without giving up your eating principles.
- Get Real
First, scan the table to take in the full variety of food. Scout out the raw vegetables or look for a creative take on a green salad. Toss back some nuts or a bit of cheese. Real food easily trumps hyper-processed offerings such as greasy, over-salted, pre-prepared appetizers. You can even offer to contribute to the spread with your own charcuterie board or perhaps your own spectacular version of your mother’s crudités tray.
- Dish It Out
The holidays offer an opportunity to reconnect with our family’s traditions and rituals. Nothing transports us faster to the past than a food memory. Embrace your past and celebrate the family and food traditions that make your celebration unique, but opt for healthier swaps when possible. If you’re looking to establish or reconnect to your traditions, do a bit of research and develop what fits best for you.
- Drink for Your Health
Nothing has the potential to derail your best intentions for healthy eating like beverages. From sugar-laden sodas to chemically contrived diet drinks, the choices can seem limited. Water is, of course, your best go-to, but not exactly party fare. When you’re looking for something special yet still want to incorporate some healthy element, try your hand at mixing cocktails made with matcha and ginger. Heart-protective wine can serve as the foundation for drinks with themes of Christmas past, present, and future. There are lots of healthy mocktail options, as well.
- Don’t Worry About Being Coarse
Today, we don’t just follow one idealized pattern of eating. Many of us are vegan, paleo, low fat, and more. The best one can do, whether host or guest, is to focus on the wholeness before you. Where that means grains, eliminate the white – as in breads, rolls, and pastries – and look for the right, such as bulgur, quinoa, wheat berries, and other whole grains. High in complex carbs, these coarse and nubby sides will keep you satisfied for the long haul.
- Stay on the Side Line
Chances are the side dishes are where the color will be. Vibrant color in food is evidence of phytochemicals – naturally occurring chemical compounds that help protect us from disease. The important thing is to eat from a variety of differing colors. If you decide to make a side, choose from bright, seasonal, local, organic produce.If you’re looking for a warming food, try your hand at roasted vegetables: potatoes, carrots, celery root, yams, parsnips, or anything you have on hand. If you prefer a cool bite and like to feel more texture, nothing beats a unique and spicy slaw.
- Give in to Temptation
Temptation is everywhere! Even some foods that look relatively healthy may contain more fat, salt, or added sugar than your body is accustomed to. So taste the foods you desire, but intentionally keep your portions small. The “three bite rule” can be useful: If you take three bites of each food you choose from the table, you’ll will satisfy your desires while keeping collateral damage at bay.
- Don’t Be a Martyr
Knowing that you have a big party later in the day can easily throw off your regular eating schedule. You might think you should hold back on routine eating and “save up” to indulge later. Think again. Skipping meals leads to poor choices and overeating. Eating smaller than normal meals at your regular eating times will help you keep in control at the party.
- Call Attention to Yourself
Despite our best intentions, it’s easy to go a little overboard at a party. We get distracted, we nibble while we socialize, and before we know it, we’ve made our way around the table. Those unconscious bites add up. Maintaining awareness – being mindful – can help you make smart choices. Checking in with yourself makes it easier to reach for the freshest and least processed food available while bypassing other options. And if you choose to indulge a little, okay. Bring your attention to the moment and savor the morsel. No moral judgement allowed.
- Don’t Desert Dessert
We are hardwired to love sweets. But while this preference tends to grow weaker as we age, it’s still there. Fortunately, healthful eating doesn’t necessarily mean foregoing the sweet. It’s easy enough to incorporate the brightness of fruit, fresh or warmed, to create something uniquely beautiful. In baked goods, always try to utilize whole grains rather than their lackluster counterparts. Just do save desserts for dessert, when the protein and fat from the meal you’ve already consumed means the sugar will have less of a negative impact.
- You Sure Get Around
You may not believe this, but the holidays aren’t really about food at all. Food is a medium that allows us to touch base with each other, to celebrate our particular traditions, and to feel a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Though most of this sense of connection is developed over time in families, new traditions can be established. The good news is, you don’t have to buck the traditions around food that everyone else loves. Add your own touch to the celebration, enriching the experience for all!
Happy holidays from all of us here at Dr. Rehme’s office!
We’ll be back to our regular blogging schedule on Wednesday, January 6.
Image by larkspurlaull