The holidays may be a time of joy and cheer, but it can be all too easy to get swept up by the festivities and abandon your healthy eating objectives. Family gatherings, holiday parties, and all the traditional dishes and goodies may be alluring, but when the season wraps, it’ll be that much harder to get back into a healthy routine if you’ve totally lost sight of your goals.
To help you stay on track during the holidays, we’ve got seven easy ways you can eat better right now. By consuming more mindfully throughout the celebrations, you’ll probably feel more in control and better about yourself in the long run. And what better way to begin a new year? Here are seven easy ways for you to stay on track:
1. Eat breakfast. Even if you’re not a morning person, you’ll want to get something healthy in your stomach before the festivities begin. The holidays can be a time of impromptu celebrations involving food; a fresh batch of linzer cookies baked by a colleague, or a neighbour’s edible gift. If you’re too hungry it may be harder to stop yourself from eating JUST one or two.
2. Avoid eating out. Pack lunches and stick to a healthy meal plan at home during this time. By limiting your eating out to parties and holiday lunch commitments at the office, you can balance their richness with healthful meals at home. Plan ahead and do some big-batch cooking on the weekend – like a chili or casserole -- so you can freeze the leftovers and pull them out during the busy week.
3. Offer to bring a dish. If you’ve invited to a party, offer to bring a salad or a vegetable side. While not every host wants contributors, some will readily accept the offer, so they’ll have more time to focus on the main. Make your offering a healthy and veg-filled one, like whole grain salads or mashed root veggies not loaded with butter and cream. This ensures you a healthier option to fill up your plate with and compliment a rich feast.
4. Have a snack before you go to a party. If you’ve invited to a party, offer to bring a salad or a vegetable side. While not every host wants contributors, some will readily accept the offer, so they’ll have more time to focus on the main. Make your offering a healthy and veg-filled one, like whole grain salads or mashed root veggies not loaded with butter and cream. This ensures you a healthier option to fill up your plate with and compliment a rich feast.
5. Drink lots of water. Holiday beverages can be calorific, so don’t forget to count them if you’re tallying everything up. Try to alternate your beverage of choice with a glass of water, which not only helps to fill you up, but will probably make the next day better too. Not every holiday host remembers to offer water, so it’s up to you to seek it out and keep your eye on your healthier intentions.
6. Keep fruits and vegetables on hand. Don’t feel obligated to set out a plate of baking when company drops by. Offer a plate of fresh fruits and vegetables instead, thinking outside the box to keep it celebratory. Squeeze fresh tropical treats like papaya and dragon fruit with fresh lime juice (they taste better now than off-season strawberries), and roast wedges of squash or sweet potatoes seasoned with warm spices. For anyone overstuffed on holiday goodies, a plate like this will be a welcome surprise.
7. Look for ways to lighten up your favourites. Examine your go-to holiday recipes and see where you can make healthier swaps — without compromising tradition, of course. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use whole grains like farro or quinoa in place of refined grains like white rice or couscous.
- Replace whipping cream with half and half to cut the fat.
- Make creamy dressing with whole-fat yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
- Skip the apple pie and make a crisp instead. You’ll still get festive flavour while avoiding the butter pastry.
With all these tips in mind, you’ll be able to eat better over the holidays while spending time with loved ones. Who knows, maybe they’ll even ask you to share these healthier habits too.
Jessica Brooks is a pro-trained cook, baker and Toronto-based content creator. When she's not writing about food, she's in the kitchen developing recipes and cooking with her kids.