No question, the holidays are here!
If you believe Walmart, Christmas starts in September… but I digress. Eating healthy is a challenge for many of us… especially so during the holiday season.
Stress can lead to overeating and overdrinking. If you dread the holidays, rethink them. They should not put you into debt, make you feel anxious or force you to do things out of obligation. It is totally OK (and your right!) to say NO to activities and “extras” that are stressful. The world WILL keep turning even if you don’t go to that party… or have a tree that Martha Stewart would envy… or make handmade gifts for everyone in the neighborhood… or participate in 25 cookie-exchanges…. or do your gift list from Oprah’s list of Favorite Things… or decorate your house as if it were going to be on HGTV. No one will die. Trust me.
Here are 8 tips to help you enjoy the holidays without the prospect of New Year’s remorse.
Plan your meals to include the special holiday items…. but, first, analyze them. Do you really enjoy them? Or is it just tradition? Could you adapt the recipe? Take those sweet potato dishes with the gooey marshmallows on top, for example. Personally, I prefer mashed sweet potatoes with smoked paprika sprinkled on top. You could try having only one kind of stuffing instead of three. If the Holiday just isn’t the Holiday without Aunt Mollie’s Super Fluffy Coconut Dream Cake, by all means, enjoy the treat… especially if she only makes it for this Holiday. On the other hand, she might be tired of making it and thrilled to make something else…like sweet potato pie… or something with fruit.
Avoid drinking your calories. Remember that the buzz can also lead to poor eating choices. A glass of wine – 80-150 calories; beer – 140-200 calories; shots – 150-200 calories; mixed drinks… ooh-la-la.. 300 – 800 calories…. and eggnog 440-540 calories.
Bring a healthy dish to parties. That way, you KNOW that there will be something you can eat without derailing. And, you will be amazed at how popular healthier options are. If bringing something is not appropriate, consider eating before the party. Then you can spend the party socializing instead of balancing your drink and plate.
Learn the art of the gentle decline. It’s inevitable. You will be encouraged to eat things that are not on your eating plan, to eat more than you want, to eat things you just don’t like under any circumstances. Here are some handy phrases: ” Oh, thank you. Those look so good… and I’m saving room for some (fill in the blank).” or “Thanks so much. I am just stuffed! May I take some to-go?” or “Thanks. I just can’t eat another bite right now…. perhaps later.” or “Thanks for offering. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. Truthfully, I’ve never cared for (fill in the blank) and they don’t seem to like me much either.” Remember, it is NOT your job or obligation to make anyone happy at your expense.
Have a plan for leftovers! For many of us, just being around food makes us run the risk of overeating. It is best to deal with leftovers right away. Wrap them up and freeze them for use in future meals (like ham cubes for quiche or soup). Make up to-go boxes for your guests. Dollar stores have those boxes; keep them on hand. If Aunt Mollie’s Super Fluffy Coconut Dream Cake is your undoing, be sure to use this strategy. Ditto for any other food that “calls” to you.
Help spread the holiday cheer. Have a plan for those huge cookie-platters and gift boxes of candy that guests will bring. Re-gift gift baskets, cookies and candies. Check with your local senior center, homeless shelter, food bank. Holiday treats may not be within their budget.
Make some new traditions! Consider that holidays are about reconnecting with people you love. Meet family/friends for something active… like sledding, skating, snowball battles… or walking the neighborhood enjoying holiday lights. Watch holiday movies. Play board games. Take the focus off the food.
And finally, I believe that special treats are for special days. Plum Pudding is for Christmas, right? Latkes are for Hannukah, right? So, keep them special. And, remember that a holiday is a holy-DAY, not a holy-MONTH. Even those ancient revelers stopped after 12 days!