Holiday Meal Game Plan

The holidays are upon us! And with celebration comes food…and lots of it! Just because it is a holiday doesn’t mean your healthy lifestyle needs to go out the window!

Here are some helpful tips in order to stay on track during the big day:

  • Eat Breakfast: Start off the day with a nutrient dense + protein packed meal, like a veggie egg white omelet or protein smoothie. This will jump start your metabolism, keep you satisfied, full and give your body steady energy throughout the day. Set the tone in the morning with something healthy. Avoid pastries and processed foods that will crash your energy levels later when you need it the most. Avoid skipping breakfast; the last thing you want to do is skip meals! You might think you are doing yourself a favor by “saving” calories for the big meal, but you will end up needless to say hungry, cranky, and most likely eating MORE than you would have in the first place. So, start the day off normally…eat breakfast!
  • Get moving! Aim to get a workout in before all the cooking and craziness starts. Something is better than nothing! A quick total body circuit, walk or run outside, etc. This will help start the day off on a healthy note and increase your metabolism so when you sit down for dinner, that meal will be replenishing your energy stores from earlier 😉 I don’t like to view exercise as a way to “eat more” or as a punishment to “burn off” what you ate. HOWEVER, getting a good sweat session in that day will help counteract some extra calories consumed that day 🙂
  • Smart Snacking: Be careful not to fill up on appetizers and mindless snacking. A handful of mixed nuts…a plate of cheese and crackers…that all adds up, and you haven’t even sat down for the meal. Ask yourself, “Am I truly hungry? Or do I want this because it is offered?”Snack only if you are hungry, and be mindful of the portion size. If you are a guest, go for a filling snack like raw nuts, fresh fruit, raw veggies and hummus, etc. and avoid heavy dips, cheeses, breads, etc.
  • Smart Beverages: Wine, beer, sparkling cider, holiday cocktails, egg nog…those all add up too! Be conscious about drinking water throughout the day to stay hydrated, ward off bloating, AND it has zero calories 🙂 For every one alcoholic/caloric beverage you have, drink one glass of water as well 🙂
  • Healthy Hosting: If you are hosting, try and substitute healthy ingredients as much as you can. If you are a guest, offer to bring a (healthy) dish. Not only will your host be appreciative, but then you know there will be a nutritious option on the table

  • Be a Role Model: Have a positive attitude about healthy eating and it will help keep you on track, while encouraging others as well! Instead of complaining about food you “can’t” have, find all the healthy options and remind yourself that you are happy with your choices. The less you complain, the less grief people will give you about what is on your plate!

  • Plan your Plate: Plan out this meal like you would any other meal; choose your protein sources first, complex carbohydrates and lots of veggies and greens. Look at your plate and make sure you have balance. There ARE tons of good healthy options at holiday meals: white meat turkey, yams and sweet potatoes (without all the marshmallows ;)) root vegetables, brussel sprouts, green beans…! Aim to have a colorful plate with lots of variety of food.

  • Play Favorites: Usually at holiday gatherings there are plenty of options (if not too many!) to choose from. Survey all of the dishes beforehand, and then choose what you really want to eat first. Ask yourself, “Which do I want the most?” For example, I really enjoy homemade stuffing and sweet potatoes, but I can easily pass on the bread and the mashed potatoes. Don’t deprive yourself; this will leave you feeling unsatisfied and reaching for something else in place. Avoid choosing dishes just because they are offered. Save your appetite for YOUR favorites!
  • Start Small: Although you might not be in control of the type of dishes, you can control your PORTION SIZE! Again, the choices at holiday meals are not ALL unhealthy, and you CAN enjoy the whole meal without deprivation…it is about how MUCH you eat of everything! The trouble with holiday meals is really about the amount of food consumed. For each food item that you choose, give yourself ONE serving, and even a slightly smaller portion than you think. Chances are, you will be satisfied and didn’t need the larger amount anyways!
  • Slow and Steady: Ahh. The meal is finally here and ready to be enjoyed…not shoveled in! Take your time while eating and really taste all the different dishes. Chat with your company and enjoy the meal. This will leave you satisfied but not stuffed, and will ward off going back for seconds.
  •  Have Fun! There is more to the holiday than just the meal. Remember that without family and friends, we would have nothing to celebrate! Play games, go for a walk, etc. Staying active after the meal is ideal because it will help with digestion and ward off that “food coma” sleepiness.

Most importantly, BE MINDFUL about your food intake and activity levels. This is one meal…on one day. It is all about enjoying the meal & the company and making memories. All of these tips above are to help you stay accountable to YOURSELF, your goals and lifestyle. BUT it doesn’t say anywhere to deprive yourself, track calories or measure portions, stress about if it is “high-calorie” or “not healthy”.

Yep, you will most likely eat more than normal and eat “not normal” foods on Thanksgiving or Christmas. AND THAT IS OKAY. Remember, this is one day of enjoying yourself and enjoying LIFE. If you choose to have a cookie…do it because YOU want it, and then enjoy it, because it probably tastes damn delicious right??! Because how often can you get your Grandma’s special homemade cookies? It is sometimes more about the memories WITH the food than the actual taste 🙂

Mindfully having treats in moderation is the best plan or “advice”I can give!

OK, so what about if I am dieting or REALLY trying to stay on track with my meals, and those (awkward) social situations come up?! Here are my recommendations:

Scenario-Aunt Jean is insisting that you try her homemade dish that she made just for you: To be polite, go ahead and take a small portion of it; this way you are respecting her AND yourself and your goals. Thank them and let me know how much you appreciate the effort.

Scenario-The host wants you to take leftovers home…and lots of it: If the host is asking you to take food home, offer to take the healthiest option like the veggies or some turkey. Stay away from taking tempting foods or large portions like whole pies. Leave it there! If they insist, take it…doesn’t mean you have to eat it (at home); just be respectful and you can put it in the freezer, take it to work, etc.

Scenario: The day is getting stressful…and you are reaching for the adult beverage: There is nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine or beer. But, everything in moderation and be mindful of why are drinking; is it to enjoy the beverage or to drown out your crazy company? Don’t feel guilty for taking a few minutes for a breather & break away from the group. Step outside or somewhere quiet to regain your mental clarity and focus on keeping a positive and strong attitude.

Smart Sayings to Remember:

Won’t you try some of my _____?? Come on, its just one piece/bite!

 Oh, thank you, but not right now.

I just had some of ______ so maybe later!

No thank you I am full from the meal.

Thank you, but I am not hungry right now, but I can take some home.

Why aren’t eating more?? Why didn’t you get any of the ____??

This is plenty of food for now, and I can always go back for more.

Why are you eating so healthy?? Live a little!

Thank you for your concern, but I enjoy these foods and I am completely satisfied.

Be Mindful-Be Strong-Have Fun!

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