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Navigating the Holidays (How to stay on Track with Your Health Goals and Enjoy Holiday Foods)

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

I know the holidays may be a time of dread when you're in the middle of creating healthy habits, losing weight or just want to avoid packing on extra pounds. However, I want you to breathe a sigh of relief and allow yourself to enjoy the holidays without feeling deprived or like giving up on your health goals with these 10 simple tips.

Remember, Thanksgiving is a time for creating memories, following traditions and enjoying each other's company. Don't worry, I'm not asking you to completely derail your family traditions, I'm just asking you to consider how you can upgrade or add new healthy traditions as well.

1) Start you day off with a healthy satiating breakfast. My fav is eggs, cooked any way, such as Mediterranean Frittata/muffin or veggie packed breakfast tacos.

Then, for appetizers, have fruit, veggie and cheese trays. Upgrade your crackers to eliminate trans fats and additives such as Mary's Gone Crackers or Simple Mills Crackers which come in a variety of flavors and are a healthy substitute. Serve with delicious dips such as guacamole, salsa, hummus, tzatziki sauce or chocolate dipping sauce for the fruit. These are simple to make or buy fresh, just check the ingredients. These foods are satiating and can hold you over until dinner time. Bonus: These foods give us energy and prevent us from getting sick, which we typically need more of during the holidays!

2) Don't starve yourself until the dinner. You may think you are doing yourself a favor and will eat less by skipping the other meals, but this is not generally the case. When we get really hungry our bodies are not able to regulate our appetite as well and we can eat way too much before our bodies finally begin to tell us we are full or we may never feel quite full enough. If I get hungry before meal time, I snack on delicious fruits and veggies with special dips such as roasted red pepper hummus or tzatziki sauce (dill, cucumber, garlic & Greek yogurt).

3) Avoid grazing all day. When we graze, we mindlessly eat, never get satisfied or full and we eat a lot more calories than we would if we just sat down for a meal.

Instead, fill your plate with a little of all the things you would like to enjoy, including dessert. As big as our family is, we make it easy on ourselves by using disposable sectioned plates. I use the dividers to separate my dessert from the rest of my food.

4) Avoid occupying all your time with food. Instead, enjoy other activities. For instance, play board or card games, dominoes, go on a family walk/hike, play outside games such as flag football, washers, cornhole, ladder golf, softball, kickball. These are memories you will never forget, plus, you give your body a chance to burn off some of the calories you ate. If you can not play, get involved by being a cheerleader on the sidelines.

Enjoy the day in every way that you can. The holidays are more than the food. Food is great and should be cherished, but there are many other things to enjoy and be grateful for as well.

5) Avoid saying, "I can't have that, I'm on a diet." People will tempt you and/or you will feel deprived. Instead, say, "No thank you, I do not want any right now." This way, it's not a matter of you can not have it, it's your choice to not have it right now. You can choose to have it another time.

6) Save most of your calories for food instead of drinks such as sweet tea, eggnog, beer, wine, mixed drinks, punch or soda. Instead, choose water or unsweetened tea or coffee. I love making fruit infused water for these special occasions or having flavored sparkling water, they have no calories but a ton of flavor!

7) Eat slowly and mindfully. Really pay attention and enjoy what you are eating. This may sound funny, but it can help you better know when you are satisfied. Did you know that the first 2-3 bites of a specific food are the most satisfying? Satisfaction greatly decreases after those first few bites. This is another reason to get a small amount of the foods you enjoy; you will still feel satisfied!

8) Keep in mind that 1 meal will not make or break your health goals. Avoid labeling food as good or bad or off limits. Instead, enjoy what you would like or are use to eating for Thanksgiving, then get right back on track with your health goals the next day. The key here is to make it ONE DAY, 1-2 meals, not an entire week or month.

For me, I have found that this is easiest when I do not take home a plate full of desserts/calorie dense foods for the next week. I typically make traditional Thanksgiving foods with a few healthy sides such as Balsamic Glazed Brussel Sprouts, Sauteed Green Beans, Mushrooms and Feta Cheese and Herb Roasted Delicata or Sweet Potatoes. Fruit and veggie trays are always great for the next day as sides to our meals as well.

This way I have healthy leftovers so I do not have to cook the next day and I am not tempted to continue to overeat on calorie-dense, nutritiously poor foods.

9) For multiple holiday meals, follow the BDD rule. The "B" stands for bread/appetizer, the "D" stands for drinks and the other "D" stands for dessert. Choose to enjoy 1 of these items when you have multiple holiday meals instead of all 3. This will drastically cut down on calories and allow you to enjoy a meal that is closer to the calorie amount that is right for you. Tune into your body and stop when you are satisfied and not too full. Know that you can always choose to eat more later.

10) Write out what you are thankful for, from the little to the big things. Do this in the morning before the hectic day begins. Or consider having everyone say something they are thankful for. This is what Thanksgiving is all about, being thankful for all that we have and giving to others. When we focus on this, we are living a healthy life by taking care of our mind and soul.

When you are tempted to overeat or get off track with your health goal for more than 1 day, go back to your list of what you are thankful for, get your mind in a healthy spot and refocus towards your health goals.

Share with us what healthy tips you are looking forward to trying and what works for you.

Have a very Blessed Thanksgiving!

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