If you’ve worked hard to find your groove in the healthy lifestyle scene and don’t’ want to be derailed, here are some nutrition hacks for the holidays. Blowing your eating regime on the big day can often roll over to the weekend, the next week, or the entire season. The holiday season is too long to ignore taking care of yourself, so it’s often best to stay on course. I believe in giving yourself permission to say “yes” to some dishes you normally wouldn’t eat or a dessert that only comes around on the holidays, but don’t give yourself a pass to eat whatever is in front of you between now and January 1. It’s okay to want a fresh start in the new year, but don’t slam on reverse between now and then.
Here are some nutrition hacks for the holidays. Hopefully a few will be helpful for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and maybe some throughout the year.
1. DRINK A TON OF WATER
This is a fabulous rule to live by every day, but you will find it especially helpful when you’re surrounded by food. Often, thirst is confused as hunger, so you’ll alleviate that problem by getting the adequate amount of water. Filling up with water will also keep you fuller longer, will help keep you full between meals, and can prevent ravenous eating and overeating. This is an easy one and should be done daily anyway. This is more than a nutrition hack for the holiday; carry this one with you into the new year!
2. WATER BETWEEN ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES.
This too is a good rule to follow year-round. Drink a glass of water between every alcoholic beverage – beer, wine, and/or liquor. This serves several purposes: keeps you hydrated, helps keep you from drinking too much, keeps your drinking calories and costs down, and may even save you some embarrassment.
3. GET UP AND MOVE
It will surely be a day of visiting with family and friends but take every opportunity you can to get up and move. Starting your day with a workout is perfect. Take a walk after lunch, play in the yard with the kids, clean up and get the food out of sight, or do some type of fun project or game. Getting up and moving is great daily advice but especially when you’ve overeaten. Sitting in misery will make you cold, tired, and likely want to eat again before you are truly hungry.
4. EAT FOR THE NUTRIENTS
Hopefully you’re doing this at every meal. Select foods that are going to provide the nutrients you need. This will leave less room for the foods that provide nothing but processed calories from refined sugar, processed oils, and other chemicals and toxins.
5. SMALL PORTIONS
If you’re interested in trying everything, start with very small portions. Once you decide what you like, you can go back for those items rather than filling up on what you don’t like just because you’ve put it on your plate. You may find that you feel content after the first round. It’s okay to stop there.
6. USE SMALL DISHES
This may or may not work for you depending on your scenario, but this is a good rule for daily living. If you use smaller dishes, your portions appear larger.
7. EAT SLOWLY
If you’re not accustomed to eating slowly, now may be the perfect time to take a different approach. Rather than focusing on your eating pace, focus on visiting with your family. Enjoy your food too, but stop, chew, and converse. This will naturally slow you down and allow your body to detect satiety sooner.
8. DON’T CLEAN YOUR PLATE
Don’t feel obligated to clean your plate. A lot of bad relationships with food go as far back as being told to finish our food when we’re already full and being told to eat when we’re not hungry. It’s okay to stop eating once you’re content. Overeating will not save starving children; it’s only detrimental to your body. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re not. Your body will tell you; you simply need to listen.
9. GET AWAY FROM THE FOOD
It’s common for everyone to gather in the kitchen or around the food, so do your best to get the hell away from it. Unless your relationship with food is solid, it’s difficult to stare at it without wanting to stick it in our mouths. Plus, when you’re preoccupied with the grub, you likely aren’t as engaged in other conversation as much as you could be. Get away from the food and be present!
10. DON’T TAKE FOOD HOME
If you’re family tries to send the extra dressing or dessert home with you, don’t accept it. It’s okay to be stern and let them know why you don’t want to take it. Be honest and hopefully they’ll respect your wishes. If not, and you’re super determined, feel free to toss it. Again, it’s your journey and you get to decide what you put in your refrigerator and in your body, not those who cleaned the kitchen at your Grandma’s house.
11. EAT BEFORE YOU EAT
If you know you’re going to partake in the Thanksgiving dinner, don’t eat a full meal right before. However, you don’t want to arrive ravenous. Snack on some veggies, fruit, nuts, or other lean protein before you go. There are several clean bars that are easy to travel with if you are on the road: RXBARs, LARABARS, Bearded Brothers, Thrive GoMacro, Simple Squares, Primal Kitchen. The list goes on, and I’m excited to write a post about all the options available.
12. GET BACK ON TRACK
Plan and prepare for the next day, the weekend, and the following week. If you get derailed, that’s okay. However, if you have a plan in place for the next day, the weekend, and the following week, you’re more likely to get right back into your groove. If you don’t meal plan, this may be a good time to start. What will you eat Friday, Saturday, Sunday, next week?
If you can’t shop ahead of time, put on the calendar when you plan to shop (or order online) and what you plan to shop for (have your list ready). Stay as structured as possible and keep things simple. This goes for your workouts as well. Put them on the calendar. Those are important meetings you set with yourself, and you must keep them, show up, and knock ‘em out! While you’re planning with the nutrition hacks this holiday, don’t forget your fitness!
13. TEST TABLE TRADITIONS
Blasphemy, right? Think about swapping out dishes. You don’t have to cook a dish just because it has always been cooked. It’s simply food and you and your family’s health are worth more than what’s on the Thanksgiving table.
14. SIMPLE TWEAKS GO A LONG WAY
Just because it’s a family tradition to use all the heavy cream to make the succulent mashed potatoes you’re accustomed to eating doesn’t mean you can’t make them without it. And yes, they can be succulent without the cream. Or even better, find another creative way to cook and serve the potatoes.
15. REMEMBER WHAT THIS HOLIDAY IS ALL ABOUT!
While we think of food, we all know it’s about giving thanks. Rather than letting your day and mind revolve around the eats, continue to remind yourself how thankful you are to be spending time with your loved ones, or how thankful you are for the opportunity to nourish your body the way it needs to be nourished, or how thankful you are for everything this year brought you, etc. Make a list now, so you can remember tomorrow!
I hope you find these nutrition hacks for the holiday helpful. Your health is worth it. Don’t give away one month out of the year to unhealthy habits. If you give away one day, let it be just that – ONE day! We always think we’ll start tomorrow or Monday, but one day we may run out of tomorrows or Mondays. We have one body, so let’s take care of it. It’s not just about the lbs; it’s about our health and happiness! Let’s not wait for next year; let’s get ready for it!