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8 Tricks for Clean Eating During the Holidays

This is the season for family, festivity, and food—lots of food. Temptations are everywhere, and parties and travel disrupt daily routines. What’s more, it all goes on for weeks.

The holidays are full of family, friends, great food, and great memories. But they aren’t always compatible with a healthy lifestyle. When the holiday season rolls around, it’s easy to get a little lax on the healthy eating and exercise that we typically maintain.

Coupled together, all those festive parties and the stress the holidays can bring, can mean a hit to our overall well-being from November to New Year’s. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Fortunately, with a few tricks, it’s possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle year-round.

Here are the best tips for eating clean during the holidays. Stay on track with your health goals without feeling deprived!

1. Don’t Go Hungry

An empty stomach is the number one no-no if I want to stay on track with my healthy eating habits while facing a smorgasbord of holiday food. Because there’s nothing more convincing than a grumbling stomach, I make sure I quiet it with a light meal or snack before I arrive.

2. Bring a Dish

There’s no better way to control what you eat than to bring a dish...or two! It’s also a wonderful way to show gratitude to the host and prove just how yummy healthy food can be. Ensure your appetizer board with a variety of nuts, hummus, olives, raw veggies, and crackers for dipping. For a seated dinner, bringing a salad is a wonderful way to ensure you’re getting a healthy serving of veggies and good oils. And, because I don’t eat processed sugar, wowing the crowd with a delicious and healthy homemade dessert never fails.

3. Sneak a Snack

This may sound silly, but this tip has helped me out of dozens of eating dilemmas. I often throw a small bag of nuts or a bar in my purse in case there aren’t healthy options to chose from at the party. This way I’m not left with a grumbling stomach if I hadn’t eaten enough beforehand or end up staying later than planned.

4. Learn to Navigate a Buffet

If given a buffet or spread, I go for the simplest and least processed options like salad, vegetable dishes, hummus, guacamole, nuts and olives. Other great choices are simple grains like rice and quinoa. I try to avoid dishes with sauce, gravy or dressings, as they usually contain the “unknown” (conventional dairy, processed sugar, excitotoxins, and unhealthy oils).

Choose the dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year, like "Aunt Edna’s pumpkin pie". Slow down and savor a small serving, and make sure to count it in your meal plan.

When you face a spread of delicious holiday food, make healthy choices easier:

  • Have a small plate of the foods you like best and then move away from the buffet table.

  • Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.

  • Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full.

  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food.

5. Eat Mindfully

People are often in a rush during the holiday season, which frequently leads to multitasking during meals.

Studies show that those who eat while distracted are more likely to overeat. This is because they’re unable to pay attention to their body’s fullness signals.

To prevent this, eat mindfully and minimize distractions — including work and electronics.

Try to chew slowly and thoroughly, which will allow you to better recognize your body’s fullness signals and consume fewer calories.

It can also be helpful to take a few deep breaths before you start eating. This can induce relaxation and help you keep your full attention on your plate, rather than your to-do list.

6. Drink Wisely

Aim to consume alcohol in moderation and try to choose options that are made with simple ingredients. This means avoiding drinks packed with lots of sugar and empty calories.

Some options include a Bloody Mary, dry wine (red or white), spirits served on the rocks, and a vodka soda.

To keep your consumption as low as possible at a holiday party, start off with a healthy, nonalcoholic drink such as sparkling water. This will take the edge off your thirst. Then, aim to drink a glass of water after every alcoholic drink to avoid dehydration.

7. It’s Okay to Say No to Energy-Sapping Foods

With all the demands of the holiday season, maintaining your energy levels is important. The best way to do this is to consume foods that provide a steady source of energy and avoid those that cause your blood sugar to peak, then crash.

Foods to avoid include most processed foods, in particular those loaded with added sugar, salt, or unhealthy fats. These provide “empty” calories that give you a temporary burst of energy, followed by a crash that leaves you more tired – and hungry! – than ever.

It’s okay to say no to certain foods and habits that don’t align with your goals. While it may seem difficult in the moment,when I say no food is more satisfying than the feeling of having control over my eating and not throwing all healthy habits to the wind.

It’s also important to be aware that you might have a slip-up or two.

8. Enjoy time spent with your loved ones

It may sound corny, but all the emphasis on food and drink around the holiday season means we often overlook the real point of it all – precious time spent with friends and family!

Try to shift your focus from food to creating great memories with the people you love. This can mean anything from conversations or shared activities to games and long walks together.

Offer to help serve the food and clean up at any family events you attend. Not only will this give you less time to indulge at the table, but it will also give you more time with the people you care about.

During the holiday season, pick a couple of treats that you really love and allow yourself a sensible serving of each. Make the most of them by eating slowly and mindfully – concentrating on the sensation of eating the food while savoring each and every bite.

By following this guide to clean eating through the holidays you should be able to navigate your way through the festivities without any negative impact on your health.

But just remember that the odd indulgence is part of the fun, so savor any treats you choose and get right back to clean eating with your next meal.

You know the motto: More Action, Less Blablablabla.






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