Pie. Cookies. Cheese from across the world. Chocolate. Eggnog. Champagne.The holiday season is filled with good food and indulgence. We eat and drink with friends and loved ones to celebrate the holiday and friendship. But we all know that too much of a good thing is no longer good. Overly rich foods easily lead to extra pounds, digestion upsets, mood swings and an overall “yucky” feeling. It’s all about balance.
Good, healthy holiday eating can make the difference between an enjoyable holiday season and a miserable one. Most of my patients know that I’m a believer in doing things imperfectly and harm reduction. A little self-restraint and moderation right now will mean the difference between feeling OK- maybe not perfect or feeling bad and bad about yourself. The trick is to enjoy treats without overdoing them. Make a healthy holiday eating strategy and plan to enjoy the holiday celebrations without feeling food hungover the next day.
In January, I’ll talk about some reasonable, healthful detoxification strategies that I enjoy.
Healthy Holiday Eating
Decide on a moderate way to approach treats that are most tempting to you. Avoid brash decisions like “I won’t have any holiday cookies this year.” It’s easy to break unreasonable rules. Instead, make a moderate healthy holiday eating plan. For example, if cookies are your nemesis, allow yourself to eat 1 cookie at the holiday cookie exchange. If you can’t decide between your 2 favorite cookies, have a half of each. Either way you won’t feel deprived but you won’t overdo. Pick your battles to get maximum enjoyment with minimal deprivation. If you’re a person who can’t control your sweet tooth, then it might be best to totally avoid it.
Find healthy alternatives for rich, high calorie food. Substitute nuts and fruits (both fresh and dried) for cookies or candy. Drink juice instead of soda. Better yet, drink herbal tea instead of juice. Make eggnog with nut or coconut milk instead of cream. During a meal, eat mostly vegetables instead of potatoes and stuffing. And remember, sweet potatoes with brown sugar or marshmallows are closer to a dessert than a vegetable.
The hungrier you are, the more likely you will binge on bad foods. Eat a protein filled breakfast. Eat a healthy meal before you go to a party. Try starting every big meal with hot soup. Fill up with healthy food so you don’t race to the bad stuff.
4.Maintain Healthy Routines
Don’t stop your healthy habits just because it’s a holiday. Continue to drink lots of water and get enough sleep. Make time to exercise. Spend meaningful time with your loved ones. Take time to meditate or pray. Get outside. Maintain the healthy habits that you already have. When you’re feeling good, you’ll be less inclined to eat foods that make you feel bad.
Take a breath. Before that cookie hits your mouth, just take one small breath and focus on the moment. Taste the food. Pay attention to the textures, flavors and aromas. You’ll enjoy your food more and eat less. Keep track of what you eat and how you’re feeling. Write about your stresses and emotional upsets. Compose poems and short stories. Scribble and draw. Keeping a journal will give you a non-eating outlet for stress, and remind yourself how good it feels to be healthy, happy and creative. There’s lots of apps for this that many of my patients enjoy.
Trick yourself into thinking you’re eating a lot. Use small plates to make modest pie portions seem larger. Pour drinks into tall, skinny glasses to drink less. Fill your dinner plate with salad before adding the entrees. Full plates make small portions seem big.
Get a healthy holiday eating buddy. Partners make it easier to keep your healthy commitments in the face of indulgences. They provide accountability and support. While you’re at it- buddy up for exercise. Lots of us, including myself, find it easier to keep on track when you’re accountable to another.
Look through this list of strategies and pick the ones that are the most helpful and the least difficult. Write down your list of healthy holiday eating guidelines and post them where you see them several times a day. Commit to following them. Don’t allow yourself excuses to break your rules.
Now is a great time for an acupuncture tune-up. Acupuncture helps balance your body so it’s easier to make healthy choices.