The holiday season can often be a stressful time for those of us who are healthy eaters, are training or have special diet concerns. Since embarking on this healthy journey after college and through those years of being a vegetarian, I have come to see the holidays in a new way. Many people fall off the wagon in the colder months because the days feel shorter and it is just plain chilly outside. It is also very easy to get derailed from your everyday routine because everywhere you turn there are holiday parties, holiday treats, family gatherings and unexpected errands.
My hope is that these easy tips will help you have a holiday season that is filled with joy instead of stress. Let’s celebrate the season of giving and thankfulness with health instead of peer pressure, feelings of shame and weight gain.
Since the Mr. and I will be visiting my parents and sister in Tennessee for Thanksgiving, my mother and I have already started the planning. Having a happy and healthy holiday is most important. There are so many people that struggle to find a balance between enjoying a fancy spread and guilt. Either guilt from eating too much of the wrong things or guilt from abstaining when our relatives and friends have spent so much time (and money) to prepare something special for everyone to enjoy.
I believe moderation and preparation are tools for success in nearly everything, but especially when it comes to maintaining healthy habits. The holidays shouldn’t be an invitation for stress and eating shouldn’t always be the main focus. In a day where most Americans are gluttonous and do not know when enough is enough, you can set the example for your family and empower yourself and others through good decisions. It is easier than you might think.
1. TRUE VEGETABLES. Load your plate up with true veggies. This means vegetables that are closest to their true form found in nature. Vegetables found in casseroles or mashed are typically full of extras like: oil, cream/milk, butter and or cheese. You can still eat the mashed potatoes, but you will want a much larger portion of roasted green beans and green salad. Opt for a roasted vegetable dish instead of green bean casserole. Roasting vegetables or making a broth based soup for a starter course is a great way to add in vegetables to your holiday menu without all of the extra things that can make them unhealthy. I will be sharing our menu early next week so come on back and see what we’ll be cooking for Thanksgiving!
2. DON’T DRINK YOUR CALS. It is easy to down a couple glasses of sweet tea or a couple cocktails before the meal is even served, so be mindful. If you are counting calories or simply want to abstain from extra sugar then pass all together or limit your intake. Instead of a beer, juice sweetened cocktail or eggnog, stick with glass of wine or a tonic style cocktail. If you have the option of unsweetened tea and you want to watch your sugar then opt for half sweet tea half unsweetened tea, for all the flavor without the extra sugar and calories. I like to mix up a big batch of sangria for the holidays. Another easy way to watch this is to drink before the meal or during the meal, but not both. You save yourself a couple drinks that way. This recipe will be included in my 12 Days of Christmas Blogmas special, so stay tuned.
3. BYOF. Bring Your Own Food. It might sound silly, but this is by far your best option. If you are responsible for taking a dish to a holiday shindig, then take a dish of something that you know will satisfy your guests but is a healthier option that fits your dietary needs. This is a great concept for those watching their weight or with special diet restrictions. Last year as a vegetarian, I knew I would need to take healthier food to my in laws for Thanksgiving if I wanted to be able to eat more than a couple items. They put pork fat on everything I swear. Volunteer to bring something vegan, gluten free or ever a nice vegetable dish that everyone will not know is “healthier” food. My vegan wild mushroom gravy and quinoa stuffed squash were such hits with my family last year at our harvest dinner that they’ve been requested this year for Thanksgiving. My mom even requested a salad that I’ve made her a couple times.
4. STAY ACTIVE. I know this is easier said than done, but try to stay moving as much as you can. It can be difficult to stick to a work out routine during the holiday season, but your body will thank you if you can get something in. One of our Thanksgiving traditions when I was a kid, was to walk down the street together after Thanksgiving lunch. It was a great way to stay moving after a big meal and was fun bonding for everyone. Another tip would be to workout early in the morning before your guests arrive or while something is cooking that you have to take to a family member’s house. There are also Turkey Trots and 5Ks going on all over the country on Thanksgiving, so get out there. Throw a football in the yard or turn on the Wii and get moving.
5. THINK AHEAD. Holiday meals and get togethers often mean unhealthy options, so eat mindfully when you are able to. If I know I have a holiday party or big dinner at the end of the week, I will try to eat much healthier the other days of the week. For me this lets me not feel too guilty about an extra glass of wine or second slice of pie. You can still enjoy the holidays without having to indulge every meal.
*Bonus Tip* DON’T STRESS. The holiday season can be stressful if you let it get to you. Do your best to plan ahead where you can and focus on enjoying everything. If you have a free minute and you know the weekend will be busy, then utilize that free moment. That might mean making and freezing a loaf of bread to take to a house party later that week or making a gift list and searching ads for sale prices. Remember that the season of giving and thankfulness is meant to be shared with those that you love. The true meaning of the season is about the ones you love and cherishing the time when everyone can come together.
No matter where you are and where you are going these tips can help you maximize the winter months. Thanksgiving and Christmas have become less about the actual day and more about the entire season. Embrace the season by utilizing my tips for a healthier and happier holiday. Whether you are training for a race, trying to lose weight or just maintaining there is nothing that can keep you from your goals, not even the holidays.
What are some ways you stay healthy during the holiday months?
Do you have a favorite healthy holiday dish?