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How to Stay on Track with Diet During the Holidays

Trying to eat healthy over the holidays can feel like an uphill climb at times. However, it might be easier than you think!

How to Stay on Track with Diet During the Holidays

If you’ve ever tried to diet or stick with nutrient-dense foods over the holidays, you know you’re likely well acquainted with the potential obstacles. Although staying on track can seem complicated when surrounded by temptations, a few essential tips and tricks can make maintaining a healthy diet (and weight) during the holidays easier. 

Overcome holiday eating challenges by keeping your motivation in mind and implementing meaningful ways to achieve the level of wellness you’re looking for. Continue reading to discover how to stay on track with your diet during the holidays, including tips that can help you get back on track after the holidays

The Challenges of Staying on Track

Healthy eating can feel like a feat year-round, not just around the holidays. However, the holidays often present additional difficulties. Individuals with usually “healthy” eating habits may struggle to stay on track during the holiday season. 

Let’s look into common challenges people experience when eating healthy over the holidays. 

Overindulging & Mindless Eating 

With many treats available at almost every turn, it’s no wonder that eating treats in moderation may feel like an unattainable goal. Since foods are often laid out in an appetizing way, it’s easy to graze or begin eating foods (even healthy foods) mindlessly. 

Eating becomes a sort of social event around the holidays, too. You may feel pressured to eat when every event focuses on food. 

It’s also common to get caught up in festive activities and miss regular mealtimes. As a result, you may find yourself uncontrollably hungry and overindulge as a result when it finally comes time to eat. 

An Increase in Tasty Temptations 

During the holidays, there appears to be an increase in the amount of food available. Typically low-key mealtimes become feasts, and places you frequent—from work to home to school—tempt you with candy bowls and seasonal snacks. 

Food may even come straight to your door as a gift, making resisting difficult. With an abundance of food available, it’s also tempting to dish out larger portion sizes of your favorite foods. 

Lack of Regular Routine or Resources 

Simply being “out of your element” can make healthy eating more complicated. If you’re hosting, having guests in your home can make it challenging to keep your regular schedule. 

If you’re enjoying the holidays away from home, traveling may throw your usual routine out of whack.

Tips For Staying On Track

The struggles and busyness of the holiday season make it difficult to lose weight, but not impossible! Luckily, these 12 steps can help make healthy eating approachable and attainable— even when surrounded by foods, friends, or family that don’t seem aligned with your health goals. 

Remember Your “Why”

As temptations arise, remember the “why” for your weight loss goals. Reflecting on why you started your healthy eating journey in the first place can help make decisions easier. Tapping into your motivation can help make the decisions that support your long-term health a no-brainer. 

Instead of rationalizing all the ways your goals won’t work, try to find solutions or reasons it can work. Look for opportunities to eat healthy and stay on track, and recognize how you feel about yourself when you stay true to your goals. Keep in mind that slight adjustments may help you achieve your goals in the long run. For example, it may be more realistic to maintain weight during the holiday season than to lose weight.

Unclear on how to set goals for your future? Making a vision board may help you to visualize the level of wellness you want. 

Enlist An Accountability Partner

Having a friend on your journey can help you to hold yourself accountable. It may feel like you’re the only one pursuing health, but after talking with friends, family, or guests, it’s likely you’ll find someone with whom your goals are aligned. Working with this like-minded person towards a common goal can make it seem less intimidating. Plus, you’ll have someone to split treats with, which is an easy way to cut calories in half!

Bring (or Offer) Better-For-You Options

If you’re worried about offending the host of an event you’re attending by not eating his or her food, you can offer to bring a dish (and bring enough to share)! As a host, you can offer both healthy options alongside less healthy foods to help people meet their healthy goals. 

This may seem complicated, but many items can cook together. For example, you may be able to cook refined flour rolls right alongside whole wheat ones. Or, just make the healthier version for the whole bunch! Healthy Holiday Gingerbread Cookies are an example of a food that can be health-conscious and delicious for invited guests. 

Another easy way to make traditional or expected dishes more nutrient-rich is to swap some ingredients for healthier ones. Many times, guests won’t be able to tell the difference when it comes to taste. For example, Vegan Pumpkin Pie switches out classic ingredients for plant-based ones. Even if you aren’t vegan, it may become a new holiday favorite!

Choose a Few of Your Favorite Foods

There’s a pervasive myth that around the holidays, there isn’t room to enjoy your favorites and stay healthy. This is untrue— you really can have the best of both worlds.

Instead of speeding through all your favorite foods, pick a few and truly savor them. Keep in mind that at many gatherings, take-home containers are available. 

Take advantage of this option since it can help you spread sweets over the weeks that follow healthily, instead of eating everything in one sitting. If you want a bite of everything, indulge intentionally by choosing smaller portions of seasonal specialties. 

Pay Attention to Portion Size

Speaking of portion sizes, learn to be aware of how much food constitutes one serving. Typically, larger portions mean you’ll consume more calories and challenge your weight loss journey.

In general, it’s helpful to aim for the portions in MyPlate by filling at least half the plate with fruits and vegetables, a fourth with protein (lean, when possible), and the remaining fourth with grains (preferably whole). If you want a larger helping of something, loading up on fruits and vegetables is usually a safe bet since it’s recommended to fill half your plate with them anyway! 

In addition to paying attention to portion sizes, keep toppings under control. Add-ons like whipped cream, marshmallows, icing, or ice cream can quickly add calories. 

Hydrate in Healthful Ways Throughout The Day

Since alcohol is often free-flowing at festive events, it’s essential to keep proper hydration in mind. Not only can excessive drinking be dangerous, but it can also sideline your health goals and change the way your body processes nutrients. 

Generally, you’ll want to reach for water first over the holidays to help support your body through the busyness. If you do choose to drink, be sure to moderate your consumption and appoint a designated driver (just in case). 

Alternatively, enjoy a festive mocktail in place of cocktails! Make it a contest, and see who can create the most festive, delicious creation while keeping drinks low in sugar and alcohol-free. 

Snack Smart

If you’re prone to grazing over the holidays, try chomping on fruit and vegetables anytime you feel the urge to snack. It’s harder to overeat these nutrient-rich foods, and they are packed with vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy during this unique time of year. 

Options like a charcuterie board—complete with cheeses, nuts, seeds, and other proteins—can also help you graze or snack healthier while still promoting a feeling of fullness. Snacking healthfully can help you avoid your body’s cravings, much like staying hydrated throughout the day can prevent feelings of thirst. 

Stick to Your Routine (Whenever Possible)

Along with staying hydrated and fueled throughout the day, eating regular meals can help keep your body’s energy levels constant. Even when you’re traveling or at an event, endeavoring to eat around your regular meal times each day may prevent you from falling off track. 

Instead of sticking to a rigid meal plan when you don’t have total control over preparation or cooking, allow some flexibility with your eating plan. In other words, be flexible with yourself without completely disregarding your routine. 

Instead of an “all-or-nothing” mindset, try embracing the intersection between two ideas: “I want to maintain most of my usual routine but leave room for the fun and festivity that makes the holidays meaningful for me.” This way of thinking can support your goals while allowing some wiggle room for enjoying your favorite aspects of the holidays. 

Listen To Your Body’s Signals

Staying in touch with your body’s signals can also tell you how your body is faring during festivities. For example, you may notice that skipping meals makes you feel poorly or that eating too many sugary foods gives you a headache. 

One simple tip for staying aligned with your holiday health goals is to pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. It may sound too simple, but eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full can truly help you engage in more mindful eating

If you’re worried about overeating, consider eating smaller meals or snacks every couple hours before the big dinner instead of skipping meal times altogether. When you do eat, try slowing down and savoring the experience. Speeding through eating or taking on significant portions too quickly may make it difficult to hear the signals your body is sending you.

Enjoy Seasonal Foods & Exercises

There’s so much to enjoy about the season, and being caught up on food may cause you to miss the magic. As mentioned above, there’s often a way to merge both healthy living and holiday fun. 

For example, seasonal foods and themed dishes can also be packed with healthy produce options that naturally flourish during the holiday season, such as: 

•Winter squash
•Sweet potatoes

Physical activity is another great example of how seasonal ideas can inspire healthy living, especially since even a short time or a small amount can benefit the body. During the holidays, exercise can turn into a family affair. Before the meal, entertain the kids and adults with a friendly flag football game. 

Instead of sitting around or napping post-meal, engage everyone in a low-key outing or activity (such as a walk). You can also suggest a new tradition, such as an annual Turkey Trot or another type of holiday-themed workout

Make Mental Health a Priority

In your pursuit of better health over the holidays, it’s important to remember that nobody is perfect at their goals all the time. The holidays can be full of “triggers,” or cues in your environment that make it easier to slip into unwanted behaviors or “bad” habits. Sometimes, slipping up on goals (even momentarily) may cause a spiral of shame or guilt that makes it difficult to get back on track. 

Making your mental health even more of a priority this season than in others can make it easier to forgive yourself when you falter. Recognize that the holidays can be an emotional time, and emotional eating can manifest as a coping mechanism. 

Working with a licensed mental health provider or registered dietitian may also be helpful. They can help you identify troublesome behaviors and eating patterns over the holidays. 

Manage Stress & Support Sleep

Although sleep and stress may seem unrelated to diet, when problems go untreated, they have a profound effect on eating patterns. Instead of viewing stress management and sleep hygiene as another thing to add to your to-do list, remember that investing in these wellness practices can make healthy eating easier. 

Just as a regular mealtime routine is essential, it’s important to try and get to sleep and wake around the same time each day, too. Regardless of where you are traveling, remember to pack or prepare the things that help you sleep, along with the items that keep your stress levels down. 

For example, you may want to make room in your luggage for a yoga mat, eye mask, or bath salts. You also may consider downloading guided meditations on your phone. 

Staying on Track: Final Thoughts

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the path of least resistance may be to place personal health on the back burner. However, investing in health during feasts and festivities can involve simple steps that help to support you in showing up as your best self.

In addition to healthy food and hydration choices, regular exercise, sleep, and stress management can help make this holiday season your merriest one yet!

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