Holiday season is here! Time to stuff that turkey and your belly with all the delicious nostalgia that comes with sharing special meals together. For many people the indulgences we afford ourselves this time of year come with a side of stress and guilt. Here are some tips to help you navigate the holidays in a healthy, enjoyable way:
Ditch the diet talk. How many times did you justify a holiday meal with "my diet starts tomorrow"? This year allow yourself to participate without conditions. Diets don't work. What does? Living a balanced lifestyle that allows you to celebrate occasions with special meals. Still feeling guilty? Recruit some family or friends for a stroll after your meal for quality time together (and to promote digestion).
Fasting won't increase stomach capacity. Restricting intake before a big meal won't give you more space to stuff. It will likely result in low blood sugar, low energy and a bad attitude. Instead, eat throughout the day and make sure you're incorporating protein and healthy carbs to maintain your metabolism until the main event. Your body (and your loved ones) will thank you.
Don't overdo it. Savor the foods that you enjoy the most and skip the ones that you don't. The same goes for alcohol and beverages. If you're the type who likes to try a little of everything, do just that, but sample small portions for taste so you don't end up more stuffed than the turkey. Heart burn and indigestion can be a real downer.
Smart swaps. If you're on a healthy kick and are trying to keep things light, ingredient swaps are a good way to reduce saturated fat and sodium intake without sacrificing flavor. Incorporate lots of fresh herbs and spices in savory dishes, or swap butter for applesauce, pureed pumpkin or Greek yogurt in baking. Not hosting? - no problem. Volunteer to bring a dish so you can stick to your plan and share your healthy recipe with loved ones.
Mental health matters. If you're struggling with food, it's okay to say no to people and situations that are toxic. You're not obligated to attend if it will end in anxiety, guilt and self-loathing. Too often we consider only how food affects the numbers on the scale and not our mental health status. Surround yourself with people who will support you and help you navigate holiday triggers and seek out professional help from a counselor or a registered dietitian when you need it.
Food brings us together. If we are lucky enough to share a holiday meal with our loved ones we should remember that it's much more than just calories. It's traditions and memories made around the table that we carry with us throughout our lives. So savor that slice of pie (and maybe an extra side of veggies) and allow yourself to enjoy all that the holidays bring.