Ah, the time of year when the phrases, “stretchy pants” and “food coma” are used most frequently! The holidays are usually focused on the 3 F’s: friends, family, and food, so I want to share my 10 simple tricks for eating healthy during the holidays.
Most articles you find on this will direct everything back to “weight loss”, but that’s not my goal here (although it is a natural byproduct of what happens when you eat anti-inflammatory, real, whole foods).
My goal is to talk about the inflammation that happens inside of our bodies when we’re eating inflammatory foods and to help you take care of yourself with anti-inflammatory foods while also finding balance during the holidays.
10 Tricks for Eating Healthy + Finding Balance During the Holidays
1. Fill Up On Nutrient-Dense Foods
If you’re heading to a holiday party, my first trick for eating healthy during the holidays is to eat before you go, and make sure the meal is full of nutrient-dense foods. Meaning, they’re made of real, whole foods that are going to fill you up and not be full of empty calories that’ll leave you hungry again in an hour.
If it’s a sit-down meal and it would be rude to eat beforehand, make the majority of your plate at the dinner from nutrient-dense foods such as broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, green beans, cranberries, berries, turkey, ham, chicken, salmon and potatoes.
You’ll end the night feeling satiated and not in a “food coma” that so often happens!
2. Offer to Bring a Side Dish
When you offer to bring a side dish (or two), you’ll know you at least have an option or two that you chose and is a healthy option while you’re there.
I always love offering to bring a side dish of roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. It’s always a hit with everyone there, I help the host by making and bringing a dish, and I also have food to eat that’s on my terms.
It’s a win, win.
3. BYOD: Bring Your Own Dessert
Bringing your own dessert is another way to have options that work for you, while also helping out the host again, and potentially opening people up to a healthier dessert alternative they never knew about
Since changing how I ate, I’ve found so many healthier alternatives and substitutes for desserts, that I now think they taste better than the *incredibly* inflammatory options I used to make.
I usually now bring my version of chocolate chip cookies made with real, whole foods that don’t cause inflammation. I wake up the next morning brimming with energy instead of trudging around all day, exhausted.
4. Veggie + Fruit Trays
Most holiday gatherings have some sort of vegetable or fruit tray. If yours does, make it your new best friend. There probably won’t be a massive lineup around it – *shocking* – so keep things simple and fill up on the veggies and fruit.
You can even ask ahead of time if they need you to bring a vegetable and fruit tray, and if they do, you can create everything you love and have it there to snack on.
5. What About Alcohol?
You thought I was gonna leave this one out, didn’t you? Nope, I got you!
Although I don’t drink alcohol myself, mainly because I don’t like the taste of it (and I know now how much inflammation it causes, along with slowing down you’re metabolism), I do know that it’s the holidays and a lot of people aren’t going to give that one up.
If you are going to drink alcohol, make it gluten-free, such as natural wine, hard cider, tequila, brandy, cognac, or rum, and keep it to one glass.
6. Skip the Sauces
A lot of people don’t realize how unhealthy a lot of sauces are, especially because there’s so much sugar hidden in them, so skip the sauces and try adding herbs or spices to your food to liven them up.
7. Learn to Say ‘No Thanks’
This is one I’ve had to really work on over the years. I used to hate disappointing people, but I’ve learned that at the end of the day, it’s my body and my choices, and I’m allowed to say no and hold that boundary with love and respect.
If someone’s pushing you to eat or drink something that you really don’t want to, simply say “Thank you so much for offering, but I’m all good!”
Knowing that you don’t owe anyone an explanation, and that you can still be kind and loving even when you say no, will help you strengthen that voice you have inside each time you do it.
8. Make It About Memories
Instead of worrying about the food and drinks, try focusing on who you want to connect with that night. Maybe you haven’t seen a certain friend or family member in a while. What would you love to talk with them about? What memory would you love to have?
My family is pretty big, and Christmas Eve was always filled with a lot of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. For most people that know me, they know that I don’t exactly love large gatherings and chaos. I’m an introvert, and small, intimate get-togethers are what I love. Nevertheless, Christmas Eve was always filled with games and laughter, and I always had the best memories at the end of the night.
Try talking to the host about different games you could bring if it’s that type of setting!
9. Sweat It Out Before + After
Exercise, in general, has so many incredible health benefits, including keep inflammation down. If you want to add a little boost before heading to a holiday party, try incorporating in some strength training to your workout the day of.
Why strength training? It will help deplete the glycogen stores in your muscles, which will allow you to take in a higher level of carbs without having them turn into fat.
And the day after the holiday party? Try some interval training. Focus on high-intensity exercises like jumping rope or sprint intervals. Doing this increases your metabolic rate, which maximizes the calorie burn and more quickly subtracts some calories from the night before.
10. Find Balance (And Intermittent Fasting)
Know that’s it OK to have a Christmas cookie. You’re not going to ruin your progress or goals, and one or two cookies isn’t going to flood your body with inflammation.
Find balance and moderation in everything. Fill up on the right nutrient-dense foods, and enjoy one or two of your favorite side dishes or desserts outside of that. It’s unrealistic, for most people, to live with such rigidity. You want a healthy lifestyle to be realistic.
If you’d like to do a little reset the next day, try intermittent fasting for 12-14 hours. Anything longer than that, I don’t recommend for women because it can throw off your hormones, but simply try intermittent fasting from when you get home after your holiday party (say 10pm), until 10am or 11am the next day.
This gives your digestive system a rest and helps regulate your blood sugar levels.
There are so many ways to make the holidays work for you, not against you. It’s a time to make memories, enjoy quality time with family and friends, and focus on what matters the most.
Just know that whatever your goal is, there’s always a solution and you always have options!
Wishing you all of the love and joy this holiday season. May it be a time of rest and rejuvenation.
May you find hope in this new year that’s coming.
May you know that you’re exactly where you need to be, and that your very best days are still ahead.
All my love and warmest wishes,