6 Tips to Help Your Holiday Eating Patterns Feel More Balanced

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The holiday season is filled with parties, family gatherings, and lots of different food—it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, like your well-being is taking a seat on the back burner. But, like any time of year, there's no need to feel you must restrict or miss out on festivities for fear of overeating or backtracking your health goals. Long-term health is all about sustainable practices, even in the midst of festivities.

Tips for a Balanced Holiday Season

A balanced holiday season is well within your reach. By focusing on a few key habits, you'll be able to manage the holiday chaos while feeling your best.

Don't Skip Meals

Many people believe that if they skip breakfast or lunch, they can save all those calories for the holiday party that night. That may sound like a good idea, but skipping meals can make you crabby and tired and maybe lead to a headache that just might ruin your evening festivities. It may also lead to overeating when you do make it to the evening meal, as extreme hunger often leads to eating past your usual level of fullness.

Instead of skipping meals and thwarting a sense of normalcy in your eating patterns, continue to focus on incorporating food that makes you feel good during the day, like protein, whole grains, and greens. Then enjoy your holiday festivities!

Enjoy Foods You Love

Restrictive eating patterns often result in food fear and may even make you overeat in the long run. Instead, be sure to allow yourself the foods you love during the holidays (as well as throughout the rest of the year). Be sure to include plenty of nutrient-rich food as well, fueling your body for what's sure to be a chaotic schedule.

Mingle at the Party

Make sure you do your rounds of socializing and mingling throughout the parties you attend! You may not be taking an after-dinner walk, but a lap around the company holiday party will still keep you moving and probably help you feel a little more energized.

Pace Yourself

It takes a few minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is getting full, which may sometimes lead to overeating if you are eating too quickly.

Set your fork down between bites and sip some water. Relax and enjoy the flavor of each mouthful. Chew each bite thoroughly before you swallow. Savor each moment with your friends, your family, and the wonderful food in front of you.

Drink Plenty of Water

While eggnog and peppermint hot chocolate are crucial elements of the holiday season, your body still needs to maintain its hydration levels as you sip seasonal specialties. Make sure to keep a glass of water nearby—no matter what you're drinking this year, water should be in the rotation! This is also an excellent way to make sure you don't go too hard in front of your boss or nosey uncle.

Keep Nutritious Snacks at Work

While you may not be able to control what mom is serving for a family get-together, you can control what snacks you keep handy at work. Filling your desk with nutrient-dense offerings like trail mix and fresh fruit allow you to boost your nutrient profile for an extra pick-me-up during the workday. This will not only increase your energy and stamina, but it'll help maintain a sense of routine if your body is naturally craving nutrient-heavy foods.

A Word From Verywell

Sometimes it can feel like there's no way to control what's put on your plate during the holiday season, which can be scary for many individuals. But understanding that that's ok is a huge step in the right direction. Prioritize your needs this holiday season, mentally, physically, and socially.

If you find yourself questioning holiday eating patterns or struggling with a feeling of lack of control, speak to a registered dietitian.

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.