Nov 19
2012

Healthy Eating Tips & Tricks for the Holidays

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Do you struggle with keeping off those five pounds that creep on during the holidays? This post is full of tips and tricks for healthy eating and exercise amidst the Christmas cookies and holiday parties.

The quote above is something I need to tattoo to my forehead, post on the fridge and listen to in subliminal messages. It’s a reminder to be mindful. Mindful of what I put in my mouth. Mindful of how much I move my body. Mindful of indulging…in moderation.

At this time last year, I was about two-thirds of my way through My Health & Weight Loss Journey, having lost 20 of the 30 pounds. My parents and in-laws travelled to our house for Christmas, and the pantry was quickly filled with cookies and other treats. How the heck was I going to contend with all of the temptations? Here are some of the tricks that helped me enjoy the season without completely undoing all of my progress.

Set realistic expectations:

Decide what is realistic for you during the holidays. Is setting a “lose 5 pounds by Christmas” goal going to work for you? Or would you do better with “maintain my current weight/fitness level through the holidays”? If you’re anything like me, a misstep or two can lead to a rapid spiral downwards. The internal conversation goes something like this:

“Well, I already ate four cookies today. What the heck…I’ve already blown it. I may as well have four more.” Sound familiar?

Yeah, not good. You can avoid that scenario by giving yourself a little leeway. Set a goal that you can realistically meet during the holidays.

Plan ahead:

We’re all busy, and this increases ten-fold during the holidays. When you’re busy, it seems so much easier to rely on convenience food. Instead, build your arsenal of quick (or make-ahead), healthy meals. Take a few minutes each Sunday to plan some of your meals for the week.

Here are some of my favorites:

Healthy Eating Tips & Tricks for the Holidays
Clockwise from top left:
Frittata with Artichoke, Tomato & Basil
Baked Trout (or Salmon) with Honey-Thyme Glaze
Baked Egg Breakfast Casserole with Mushrooms, Spinach & Salsa
Crockpot Chickpea Stew with Balsamic Caramelized Onions

When you make a pot of soup, stew or chili, double it and freeze the rest for future meals. Here are a few ideas:

Healthy Eating Tips & Tricks for the Holidays
Clockwise from top left:
Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash & Quinoa
Mediterranean Chicken, Bean & Pasta Soup
Hearty Lentil & Black Bean Soup with Smoked Paprika
Smoky Black Bean & Corn Vegetarian Chili

Set yourself up for success:

Sometimes the holiday season feels like you’re tiptoeing through a minefield. A plate of cookies on the counter, gifts of fudge and chocolate popcorn, and holiday parties with tables full of high-calorie snacks and cocktails. How can you possibly win?

Don’t panic. You can get through this.

If you’re heading to a holiday party, try some of these tips:

  • Don’t go hungry.  Eat a light snack or salad before you leave home.
  • For every cocktail or glass of wine you consume, drink a glass of water.  You’ll slow down your cocktail consumption and stay hydrated.  Your body will thank you in the morning!
  • Fill half of your plate with veggies or fruits before heading to the crab dip or cheesecake.
  • Don’t stand by the food table.! If it’s within arms reach, you’re far more likely to eat everything in sight.

When you’re at home, try some of these ideas:

  • Stock the house with healthy snacks, such as whole wheat crackers and hummus, edamame and fruits and veggies.
  • Instead of drinking soda, mix juice with sparkling water for a fizzy, but vitamin-rich beverage.
  • When you make holiday cookies or candy, immediately package up some of the treats to give as gifts.  Alternatively, freeze some of the them so you can enjoy them throughout the year.

Drink heavily:

Water, that is. So many times I think I’m hungry…and then the snacking starts. However, if I stop to drink a glass of water or a mug of herbal tea, I find that the craving goes away. Keeping hydrated throughout the day is one of my personal challenges, but I find that I eat far less when I’ve had my allotted amount of liquids each day.

Healthy Eating Tips & Tricks for the Holidays

Hydration doesn’t need to be limited to drinking water. Fruit juices, herbal teas, even coffee count, too. Just watch the added sugars and fats found in juice or coffee creamers.

For more ideas on keeping hydrated, read my post on Hydration Tips.

Indulge in moderation:

Am I suggesting you cut out all holiday treats? Heck no! I can’t possibly resist nibbling on my favorite Chocolate Fudge with Sea Salt or my mother-in-law’s Christmas cookies. Even if my willpower was that strong, I wouldn’t want to miss out on some of our family baking traditions. They are part of what makes the holidays so much fun.

But do I need to eat an entire plate of fudge by myself? Hmm…probably not a good plan.

Someone taught me this years ago: The first few bites are about taste, the rest is about gluttony. When this comes to treats, I believe this whole-heartedly.

Get moving:

As many of you know, I’m a runner, and I plan to keep up with my running and strength training schedule throughout the holidays. Honestly, it will help me maintain my sanity amidst the flurry of shopping, cooking and wrapping.

Healthy Eating Tips & Tricks for the Holidays

Do you need to run? Of course not. Find what works for you. Plan to take a walk with a friend a few days per week or sign up for a yoga class. Then do it!

If you find that your day is packed with activities and it’s difficult to fit in exercise, get up 30 minutes early, layer on the clothing and head out for a walk, run, bike-ride. Yes, it’s cold out there, but it won’t kill you. I promise. In fact, it’s an invigorating way to start the day. Plus, you feel as though you’ve done something for yourself before every else starts firing requests and demands at you.

If the morning just doesn’t work for you, encourage the whole family to bundle up and head out for an evening walk after dinner. Plus, if you’re out walking, you won’t be sitting on the couch, eating that extra cookie (or two).

Find a friend:

Find a friend who has the same goals as you, and keep each other accountable. Maybe you schedule walks together, or you plan to email each other every couple of days to check in. Knowing that someone is on your team can help you past some of those psychological roadblocks that often go hand-in-hand with healthy eating and exercise.

You can do this! If you are looking for support, feel free to connect with me on my Facebook page, on Twitter or by leaving me a comment on this post. We’re all in this together!

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel (Two Healthy Plates) November 19, 2012 at 7:15 am

Great post! What helps me stay on track more than anything is planning ahead.

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2 Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray November 19, 2012 at 7:31 am

Great tips. Thanks, Dara!! And have a happy holiday. :)

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3 Maria November 19, 2012 at 7:39 am

Thanks for sharing these tips! Just finished my workout! A must every day of the year, but especially during the holiday season!

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4 Barbara @ Barbara Bakes November 19, 2012 at 7:44 am

Some great tips for the season, but also all year through.

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5 Liz @ The Lemon Bowl November 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

Great minds think alike – just did a similar post!! I’ve reached a weight loss milestone recently and the holidays can be a tricky time of year to navigate. So nice to know like-minded people. :)

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6 Becky at Vintage Mixer November 19, 2012 at 9:38 am

What an excellent idea! Love all of your tips.

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7 carrian November 19, 2012 at 10:05 am

Love all of these, Dara. Hopefully others will pay attention to them instead of being horribly disappointed in themselves come January

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8 Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. November 19, 2012 at 11:06 am

great post girl!!

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9 Alyssa | Queen of Quinoa November 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

Thanks for the post Dara! I struggle with finding motivation to exercise when it’s super cold out and all I want to do is bake. It’s getting in the right mindset and pushing yourself, even if your mind is telling you no. You can never go wrong with exercise and healthy eating choices!

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10 Annalise November 19, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Great tips! I’ve still got a few pounds of baby weight I still want to lose and I’ve been worried about how to manage that with the holidays coming up. I think the key is to have realistic expectations, just like you said.

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11 Kristen November 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Oh darn, I was hoping that by drink heavily you were talking wine… ;)
Great tips, Dara!

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12 Jen @ Savory Simple November 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I so need these right now, thank you.

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13 Laura (Tutti Dolci) November 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Great tips! I’m all about lots of h2o and planning ahead – it definitely helps when hunger strikes!

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14 Jeanette November 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Great tips Dara – thanks for your inspiration as always!

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15 marla November 19, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Great post Dara! Love the proverb ~ I feel the same way. Nike actually said it perfectly: Just Do It.

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16 Donna November 19, 2012 at 10:33 pm

YOU are so inspiring! And I say “Amen!” to the thought: Indulge with Moderation. Choose and plan your indulgences . . .BRILLIANT.

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17 shelly (cookies and cups) November 20, 2012 at 6:36 am

Love these tips! When I came to the “Drink heavily” section I laughed out loud!

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18 Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen November 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm

A year or two ago I think I gained 10 pounds while home on break! Yikes. Needless to say, I think I’m a little better at controlling myself this time around. The hardest part for me is not being in charge of the menu!

Also, exercise tends to go…

Thanks for the tips!

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19 addie | culicurious November 23, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Great ideas, Dara. Definitely sharing this :)

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