Healthy Eating During the Holidays

Holiday dinner with family
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The holiday season is a time filled with parties, family gatherings, and lots of food, so it's easy to feel overwhelmed. But, like any time of year, there's no need to feel like you must restrict or miss out on festivities for fear of overeating.

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.

Try Eating Portioned Meals

Be sure to eat nutrient-rich foods throughout the day to keep yourself satisfied with balanced meals. For example, eat a bowl of whole grain cereal and low-fat milk for breakfast, a mid-morning snack of raisins and nuts, followed by a healthy lunch with a big salad or a sandwich made with whole grain bread will keep your body and brain fueled throughout the day.

Eat High-Fiber Foods Before the Party

When you have a party to attend, snack on some fiber-filled foods throughout the day and just before you go. Fiber is an important nutrient every day, as it helps us to feel fuller for longer. This may help during the holiday season as you may not feel the need to mindlessly eat at a party if you aren't hungry yet. Instead, consuming enough fiber throughout the day will allow you to assess your true hunger and fullness cues and choose what sounds best to you at a party. Fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables are always a smart addition to your diet, such as a small salad, a plate of veggies, or a piece of fresh fruit.

Still Enjoy the Foods You Love

Overly 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 and throughout the rest of the year. Try to be mindful of portions and still be sure to include plenty of nutrient-rich food into your meals.

Mingle at the Party

Parties are for more than just food, so make sure you do your rounds of socializing and mingling throughout! This also gives your body a chance to process the foods you've been enjoying, and a chance for you to evaluate your fullness levels!

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 this wonderful food. Remember it's a meal, not a race to see who can eat the fastest.

Drink Plenty of Water

It can be difficult to differentiate between hunger and thirst cues, which may lead some people to assume they are hungry, when they may actually be thirsty. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water during a meal and throughout the day is an easy way to begin deciphering between them. You can also use water to slow down your eating by taking a sip or two between bites.

Drink a glass of water before you drink alcohol and in between drinks to slow down your alcohol consumption. 

Keep Healthy Snacks at Work

Healthy snacking may help many people stay on track, especially at work. Instead of traditional snack foods, try snacking on nuts, raisins, fresh fruit or energy bars instead so that your snack calories provide you with good nutrition.

A Word From Verywell

It can be difficult to avoid overeating during the holidays. If you do overeat now and then, don't beat yourself up for it. Be kind to yourself. Remember that maintaining a healthy diet throughout the holidays takes practice and one meal doesn't make or break long term health. Forgive yourself and make sure your next meal or snack is a healthy one.

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a healthcare journalist and fact checker.