Well if that title isn’t a walking contradiction, I’m not sure what is! As I grew up, I learned over time that the holidays were a season where women talked about how they ate too much and how Winter was a season where jeans fit tighter and sweets were the enemy. I learned that you were “good” if you resisted when dessert was offered and that “the diet starts in January.” I watched people talk about how they had eaten too much and that they would work it off at the gym tomorrow. I overheard women talk about diets they were going to try and what food they were eliminating next. All while celebrating the most wonderful time of the year!
Our childhood shapes our adulthood and what we hear around the table shapes our relationship with food. I’m sure you have experiences in your childhood that have shaped the way you look at and think about food, either positive or negative.
For me, the holidays were to be feared.
At least the dinner table was. In my late teen years, my entire goal in life was to be skinny. Everything I did and ate was working towards that goal. So, the holidays were the enemy to this goal. I didn’t have complete control over what was served and I didn’t want to bring attention to the limited food I tried to eat. It was an incredibly stressful balancing act, one that wouldn’t be able to last forever. But that’s a later story for a later day.
I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you have a similar experience or you always find yourself stressed about the holiday dinner table. Welcome, friend.
What I want to talk about today is how you can still eat healthy, enjoy the holidays, and walk to the dinner table with freedom and peace.
First, let’s talk some practical steps to stick to your diet during the festive season:
Fill at least half your plate with greens or veggies: one way to stick to a healthy diet is to focus on filling your plate veggies and letting those fill you up. There is almost always a salad available and that can be an easy “rule” to help you continue to eat healthy and side step bloating and puffiness.
Offer to bring a side dish or cook a meal: if you’re going to a family member’s house or a friend’s house for a holiday meal, offer to bring a side dish. That way you know that whatever you bring will be packed with nutrients and you can fill your plate with that. If you’re going to be at your parents house or a family member’s house for an extended time, offer to cook one of the meals. My family will be together for a handful of days, so I will be cooking dinner for everyone one of the nights that we are together for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Skip the extra butter, salt, cheese, etc.: most of the dishes that are served around the holidays are filled with delicious things like butter, salt, and cheese. So, you can try ditching adding butter to your mashed potatoes or cheese to your pasta. This is a simple way to sidestep extra unnecessary calories.
Fill up on protein: if you want to fill up quickly at dinner, grab the protein. Protein will satiate you, and most of the time, the protein of the meal is not full of butter or cheese. But, some of you might be eating lots of red meat and ham, so at those meals, try to stick fill your plate with more veggies.
Stick to one glass: alcohol is sure to be flowing around the holidays and they are full of empty calories! Try to stick to one glass most of the time, and maybe pick one or two occasions to splurge!
Eat real food: when making food or filling your plate, look for the dishes that are full of real foods. So, this would be grilled chicken, roasted carrots, diced and roasted potatoes, etc. Dishes that have mixed lots of different foods together (casserole dishes) are more likely to be filled with extras that you don’t need in your diet :)
How to enjoy the holidays with peace:
Grace: just like everything in life, there are seasons of ups and downs. So, what happens if you DON’T fill half your plate with veggies? Grace. What happens if you do go back for more dessert? Grace. Beating yourself up and punishing yourself is incredibly detrimental to your health too. So, do your best, enjoy the food, and give yourself some grace.
Plan ahead: before you go to parties or dinner at your in-laws, plan ahead. Maybe that means snacking on some veggies before you go so you aren’t as hungry and less likely to fill up on empty calories. Maybe this means you plan your workouts or decide which party you’re going to have two glasses of wine at. If you have a plan for how you plan to eat and exercise, you’re more likely to stick to it. If you don’t you’re more likely to eat things that you didn’t want to.
Drink lots of water: staying hydrating is so important for health, wellness, digestion, etc. Especially when it’s cold outside. You don’t feel as thirsty, but you still need lots of water. So, drink two glasses of water for every cocktail, bring a water bottle wherever you go, and fill up on water before and after every meal!
Get outside and plan workouts: even though it’s cold, it’s still important to move your body! I find that when I am consistently exercising, I am more likely to eat healthier make better dietary decisions. It will also help your digestion and energy levels. Plan to go on walks with family or hit the gym early in the morning! You will be glad you set the time aside for yourself.
Gather family together for movement: one of the best ways to stick to your healthy lifestyle is to invite others into it. Instead of just bailing on people or not going to something because the food might not be healthy enough for you, invite others into your routine. Go for a walk with family or a bike ride. Or organize a family football or soccer game. This will make memories and people will get outside and move their bodies.
Enjoy the sweets or extra serving of potatoes without guilt: at the end of the day, if you want that second serving or extra dessert, do it. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t do it every single day, but enjoy food. Enjoy life. Enjoy time around the table. Yes, it’s great to eat healthy. But it’s also great to enjoy butter and potatoes. Listen to your body and give it what it needs.