Planning, intention and a willingness to tweak traditions are the keys to avoid stuffing yourself silly this holiday season.
FOR THE PAST few years, I have been pleased with my Thanksgiving plate. I take my favorites — turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, topped with gravy, and I add a heap of bright green beans to balance it out, along with any other vegetables on hand.
At the end of the meal, I feel happy that I’ve made it through another holiday without gorging myself silly.
And then I remember — the pie.
Eating mindfully through the holidays is easy enough to want, but following through can feel like it requires more discipline and determination than you have. The big holiday meals are just the start. Holidays are a nonstop flood of homemade cookies arriving at the office, social events with special cocktails, handmade treats from neighbors and your own family cookie traditions.
Even the healthiest, most active person can get derailed.
But it’s possible to stay healthy through the holidays, says Seattle nutritionist Michelle Babb. With planning, intention and perhaps some tweaking of traditions, you can make it to the new year still on track with your health and nutrition goals.
Babb says to look more closely at holiday traditions. It’s a good time to examine why a dish might be important to you.
Instead of going with dishes you always have at Thanksgiving, consider swapping them out for new ones that are delicious and nutritious, like an exciting vegetable dish.
If you can’t bear to eliminate your beloved foods, consider changing up other traditions. Many families show love through food, Babb said. One of her clients working on kicking a sugar addiction bemoaned her tradition of making sweets for her kids returning from college. But when she switched out her treats to healthier options, like fruit, her daughters were relieved. The healthier choices helped them, too.
“People get so attached to the memory of it,” Babb said. “It’s this idea you’re obligated to have foods that are less healthy because you’ve always done it.”
Holidays are full of other land mines, such as co-workers plying their special shortbread. If there is a main break room at work where treats pile up, Babb advises staying away to avoid the temptation. Bring hummus and veggies or an apple and nut butter for a snack. Offer mandarin oranges at your desk. People will be happy to have a healthier alternative.
Another strategy is to plan in advance, especially for parties with lots of temptations. Sugar and alcohol are easy to overindulge. Eat a balanced meal beforehand that leaves you satisfied so you are less likely to give in. If you are running short on time, take out an hour earlier in the week, and do food prep so you can put together a quick dinner. Buy pre-cut vegetables and stock your freezer, says Babb, the author of “Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy.”
Babb also advises being intentional with your choices. If you want to enjoy a cocktail, skip the sweets. Or choose a couple of cookies, and be done. Savor each bite, noticing the flavor as you chew, the sweet buttery scent, and then stop.
If you do end up on a sugar binge, despite the best of intentions, go back to your healthy plan as soon as you can.
“Do whatever you can do to right the ship sooner than later,” she said. “Wake up, eat a nutritious breakfast, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits throughout the day and intentionally stay away from sugar.”
Babb says with some intentionality — and planning — around how you eat, you can make it to the new year feeling like yourself, with a few minor tweaks. And isn’t that the point?