Happy, Healthy Holiday Eating

Nov 01, 2007

Fitness Handout

The holiday season is a time of celebration and abundance. However, the holidays also teem with tasty temptations and can present challenges if you are trying to maintain healthy habits.

Here are some practical ideas for enjoying your favorite holiday foods without packing on the pounds, from Jennie McCary, MS, RD, LD, the wellness coordinator for Albuquerque public schools and chair of the Action for Healthy Kids project team in New Mexico.

Create and Stick to a Plan

To help maintain healthy habits, identify potential problem areas and anticipate situations that may present challenges, advises Kate Geagan, MS, RD, president of IT Nutrition, a nutrition consulting company in Park City, Utah. Allow yourself some slack and don’t aim for perfection. “Choose to focus on two areas at most,” recommends Geagan, “such as [sticking to] a firm workout schedule [and] avoiding the cheese tray if that is a weakness.” By recognizing and anticipating your primary weaknesses, you are more likely to stick with a plan, she says.

Maintain a Regular Schedule

While the holidays can be hectic, it is important to eat at normal mealtimes. Don’t try to “make up” for bad eating by skimping at breakfast or lunch, notes Geagan. “This sets [you] up for poor energy, hunger and bad food choices at the next party.” Once again, it helps to have a plan to maintain your resolve. For example, if you are going to an evening festivity, eat a balanced, lighter lunch, such as a mixed green salad with grilled chicken and chopped apples. It is also helpful to try to eat a high-fiber snack, like a handful of colorful veggies, midafternoon to avoid going to the party starving.

Practice Mindfulness

Before you heap any party food onto your plate, scan the offerings on the table. Consciously take one “virtual” trip through the buffet to see what is being served. This will help you make better choices. And savor both the food you eat and the conversations you have with other guests; eating more slowly will help you be more aware of when you are satisfied and feeling full. Another strategy is to create a physical buffer zone that is a safe distance from the buffet, says Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD, LD, owner of LivingWell Communications in Chicago. This prevents you from being within arm’s distance of those tempting dishes and discourages mindless munching.

IDEA Fitness Journal , Volume 4, Issue 10

© 2007 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.


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  • Ben Wright

    I simply can't do it. holidays kills me! sad thing is that my main goal is ABS and without a proper diet, I can only dream of a 6-pack. http://samabslab.com/
    Commented Feb 25, 2014
  • Evie Oberdorfer

    Love your article, such great tips! Keep up the great writing! I invite clients to enjoy Christmas goodies in moderation! You can always add extra time to your workout before the party, or the next day. What ever you do...don't starve all day in order to put on the "Christmas feed bag" - did I say that? A few additional Evie tips for clients: Eat regular healthy choice meals/snacks on party day. Get in a hearty workout or run the day of the event. Drink 2-3 glasses of water before arriving to satiate the "Build high - eat it all" mindset. If possible choose a plate that let's you see how much of the cream cheese-butter spread you actually took, etc. Be sure to eat the snacks with protein, carbs, fats and vegetables before drinking to slow down the effects of alcohol, keep you full, hydrated and more able to say to yourself- "STOP...I'm just ONE man/woman!". If partaking in alcohol drink 1-2 glasses of water or sparkling water between each Cranberry, Santa Claus, marshmallow margarita, or any other alcoholic beverage. Invite party pals to a next day "POST PARTY WORKOUT" with you. Give all the love, service and care you can to celebrate this joyous Christmas, or other tradition!
    Commented Dec 10, 2013
  • Jason Martuscello

    My take on the Holidays and Food Instead of worrying about what you eating during the small span from thanksgiving and christmas - focus on the other 11 months that constantly impact your intake! To put it in Perspective - Do not worry about indulging the large thanksgiving feast, holiday cookies, etc.. FOCUS ON: The 4 sodas you drink a day (Don't care if its diet), 6 cups of coffee, Daily late night snacks. Slowly limit the foods/drinks that compose of overall diet on a regular basis! Good Luck & Happy Holidays! Fuel the Movement! JM
    Commented Dec 23, 2011
  • Kathryn Sawatzky

    The main point is don't aim for perfection! Be mindful of your choices and portion control is key :)
    Commented Dec 21, 2011