Turkey and gravy and dressing!
Gooey mac n’ cheese!
Cakes and cookies and pies, oh my!
The most common philosophies I hear going around regarding holiday eating seem to fall in one of two extremes:
1) Tis the season! Eat whatever you want — then start a new diet in January!
2) None of that delicious food is worth it. Don’t eat any of the rich / sweet / comfort foods that signify the season.
Nah. Let’s try Door Number 3: a more balanced approach.
How to enjoy holiday foods without overindulging:
1- Build your plate around protein and veggies.
Instead of piling your plate with every thing on the Thanksgiving table, start by adding protein (like turkey!) and veggies – preferably the ones still recognizable as veggies. Then, add moderate helpings of your other favorites.
This helps because our bodies need protein and fruits/veggies, and we’ll feel better fueled when we build our plates around them. Additionally, they help us feel full so we can still enjoy Granmama’s pound cake without eating an actual pound of it.
2- Slow down and savor.
Resist the urge to eat fast because it’s all so darn yummy. Slow down, savoring each bite. Join in the conversation around the table. Set your fork down occasionally.
This helps because it takes our brain a while to get the message from our stomachs that we are indeed full and should stop eating before we feel unpleasantly stuffed.
3- Snack smarter.
Tis the season for platters of cookies and tins full of holiday treats, in the break room at work, on your kitchen counter… everywhere you look. When it’s all this handy and so in-your-face, it’s natural to want to eat it.
Try snacking on a healthy fat, like almonds, or a piece of whole fruit (I’m loving kiwis right now) before you dive into the Christmas-tree shaped brownies. If you still want that treat afterward, go ahead — remembering to savor rather than scarf it down — but you’ll be far less likely to eat the whole plate full and you might even decide you don’t want it right then.
4- Drink (lots of) water.
Staying hydrated has a multitude of benefits. Sometimes we think we’re hungry when we’re actually just thirsty. Keep water handy and sip all through the day, and especially if you’ve been munching sweets.
In addition, if you usually to drink sugary drinks, consider swapping those out for water since you may be eating more sugar than usual.
5- Go for a walk.
Studies show that walking — just a brisk 15 minutes — may help curb sugar cravings. So when that plate of gingerbread men is giving you the eye, try going for a short walk. It may help you decide you don’t want that cookie right then — but either way, the walk will still have done good things for your body and your mood.
6- It’s not all or nothing.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of all-or-nothing thinking: Since you stuffed yourself at Thanksgiving, you might as well just eat whatever until the end of the year. Or since you missed today’s workout, you might as well finish off that pumpkin pie…
But each action is an individual choice. You don’t have to let them snowball into one another. If you finished off that pie, okay. Could you still go ahead and get protein and veggies at dinner? If you missed your workout, okay. Could you take the dog for a longer walk this afternoon?
7- Food isn’t just fuel.
Yes, food is fuel. Yes, our bodies do better when we fuel them well, with healthy foods.
But food is more than that. Thanksgiving is about more than turkey and dressing; it’s about gratitude and loved ones, whether near or far away. The entire holiday season is about traditions, and faith, and community, and culture. These things matter.
Happy holidays, y’all.