One of the best parts of the holidays is that it is peppered with opportunities to get together with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. And although these gatherings often include decadent meals and delicious desserts, it is still possible to eat healthy this season. The key? A game plan that fits your own dietary preferences (vegan, paleo, gluten-free) while still allowing wiggle room to indulge.
Here are a few tips for healthy holidays to help you stay on track while still getting the most out of your favorite festive foods:
More than once, I’ve made the mistake of skipping lunch in order to conserve calories before diving into a holiday feast (it seemed like a good idea at the time!). Without fail, however, I end up foraging by the time dinner is served, which leads to overeating and late-night bloatedness. Now, before heading out for a evening of holiday cheer, I eat a normal, balanced breakfast and lunch followed by a moderate afternoon snack. This way, I eat less of the rich party offerings to stay on track through New Years.
When attending a party, for which you’re often asked to bring a dish, sign on to provide a healthy side salad or fruit plate. If you prefer to make something a little more festive, there are tons of flavorful dips and appetizers that won’t break the caloric bank. Creamy hummus, fresh bruschetta, spicy salsas, and guacamole are all made with nutritious natural ingredients everyone can enjoy. These recipes are so delicious that most people won’t even know they’re considered “good for you.”
Everything in Moderation
It is unrealistic to think we can attend a holiday party and not try one of Aunt Ida’s famous double-chocolate-chip cookies. Rather than filling a plate full of desserts, first look at all the offerings and choose one treat that’ll satisfy your sweet tooth. I automatically eliminate anything store-bought and processed, which is typically filled with preservatives, and find the most mouthwatering homemade item to be my indulgence for the night. I know what pie from the freezer section tastes like, for instance, but Aunt Ida’s cookies are a one-of-a-kind dessert that will more than suffice.
When counting your calories, omitting alcohol is a good way to stay on point, too. But if you feel like enjoying a cocktail during a holiday party, it’s best to pick one you can enjoy all night without going overboard. Punch bowls are usually filled with sweet beverages that go down fast—meaning more calorie-heavy refills—so red wine is a better option if you want to nurse a drink throughout the party. As a bonus, according to Mayo Clinic, red wine’s antioxidants (called “polyphenols”) are known to reinforce the lining of the blood vessels in your heart.
The After Party
We’ve all been there. Despite our best-laid meal plans, we still tried every fried appetizer available, took two portions at dinner, and splurged at the annual work party’s treat table. The best thing to do after a night of overindulgence is to start the following day with a “physical” nod to your dietary goals. As much as I want to lay on the couch and order in a pizza after a holiday party, I find that I feel much better if I lace up my gym shoes and go for a brisk run. And when I follow that up with a Seinfeld-style “big salad”—full of fresh, delicious veggies—it feels like a reward rather than a punishment.
The key is to do what works for you. If you take yoga, stop by the studio to pick up a class and a smoothie. Swim some laps and have a protein-rich lunch. Walk the mall with a friend and enjoy a nutritious sandwich (on whole wheat bread). Exercise is best when you fill up with the healthy, whole foods that energize you before each session.
For a more immediate boost, try a post-party detox plan to jump-start your diet before you even think about New Year’s resolutions. What are some of your holiday eating tips for staying true to your goals during this season? Leave us a comment below or send us a #GoodMatters tweet. Healthy holidays!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.