Healthy Eating Tips to Survive the Holiday Season
It’s that time of the year. Time to gather with family, reflect on your health and happiness, and be thankful for your blessings. When it comes to the holidays, it’s easy enough to promise yourself that you will not overdo it at family gatherings, but unfortunately, it’s even easier to break that promise and overindulge. Every bite is so delicious as it passes your lips, but chances are, a few hours later you will be feeling the aftereffects—both physically and mentally.
Being in good health is something to be especially thankful for. This Thanksgiving, confront the holiday head on with a new, more mindful approach. These tried-and-true tips will help you navigate the holiday season without having to choose between your favorite holiday meals and maintaining your healthy routines:
- Understand the Eye-Stomach Gap. Most of us have probably used the phrase, “my eyes were bigger than my stomach!” But did you know that when you are surrounded by people who are eating, mirror neurons of your brain are activated, stimulating the desire to eat (even if your stomach is full!)? This can lead to overloading your plate, overeating, and eventual weight gain. However, knowing this is half the battle. Next time you feel the urge to help yourself to a second helping of what is on the table, step back and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” If the answer is no, put down your plate.
- A Family That Cooks Together Stays Together. Getting the family together and involved in meal preparation is an investment in everyone’s physical and emotional health. The act of being together in the kitchen cooking gives you time to catch up and talk about new and exciting things in life. Bonding together over food contributes to creating a positive environment in which you can make good memories and strengthen your emotional bonds to each other. Studies have also shown that cooking at home as a family reduces the risk of obesity and increases the overall health of your family.
- The Power of Portion Control. When is enough, enough? There are many ways to reduce your food consumption while still feeling satisfied. First, look at the entire spread before serving yourself, and when you do, only go through the line once. Second, make sure that you’re properly hydrated. Dehydration causes you to think you need to eat, when in reality, all you need is more water. Lastly, try using a smaller plate. Research shows that large plate sizes create an optical illusion that can lead to larger portion sizes, with overeating as the ultimate result.
- Know When to Walk Away. Catching up with relatives at the dinner table can be a wonderful way to pass the time over the holidays. However, it can also result in unexpected calorie consumption. Opt for quality time away from the table. After your meal is over, get up, clear the table, and put the leftovers away. Consider a playful game of touch football, or a walk outside to enjoy the scenery. If the weather is bad, start a fun game of charades indoors. Any form of exercise will help to balance the calories you consumed, and family activities are just as important as the delicious meal you share together.
- Be Mindful of Emotional Triggers. Almost everyone has at least one or two dysfunctional relationships within their extended family—that crazy uncle you see once a year, a sibling who knows just how to push your buttons, or a father-in-law who makes you feel two inches tall. Before starting the day, gather your feelings, identify your triggers, and make a plan for how to deal with them—try deep breathing, or making sure you have someone who can help talk you through it. This will encourage positive reactions and communications and deflect the impulse to bury your feelings in food.
Having a healthy holiday does not have to be complicated, or change your routine too much. Along with learning stress management techniques, getting a good night’s sleep, regular exercise, and eating healthy are all great stress reducers that should be followed throughout the year. Keep these practices alive throughout the holiday season to calm stress and maintain your health while enjoying this time with your friends and family.