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Enjoy Holiday Foods Without the Guilt

The holidays are right around the corner, a time to gather with family and friends and enjoy the season in good company and good cheer. Sugar cookies, fruitcake, and all sorts of other goodies are common and readily available, not to mention the lavish Christmas dinner and all sorts of snacks and foods in the lead-up to the new year. Coupled with eating out, the stress of shopping and playing host, and the weather, it can all quickly add up to a decadent, indulgent season of eating. How can you plan your holiday meals to maintain your healthy habits without missing out?

Should you “cheat” on your meal plan or protocol, enjoy what the season has to offer, and then resume the good habits come January? – No! Stick to the plan!

You’re doing so well, and you’re feeling great from the meals you’ve been eating—so why do you need to suddenly compromise because of the holidays? You might not be able to have your cake and eat it, but you can enjoy a healthy holiday season with a bit of planning! If you’re having trouble staying the course with so many festive foods close at hand, we’ve got you covered with helpful Christmas meal planning tips and ideas for holiday dieting—not to mention delicious recipes!

Keep Things Fun

It’s incredibly important to keep things fun during a diet, especially at those times of year when you’re surrounded by great foods and family favorites. The bad news is you won’t be able to enjoy quite as much as you might have in the past, but the good news is you can still enjoy these foods without worrying about guilt—provided you do so in moderation.

A lot of this moderation requires you to take the focus off of food. Think about how many dinners, parties, and goodies are available around Christmas and the New Year. It’s a lot! A ton of your social schedule in December involves food, so take it out of the equation. Make plans that don’t revolve around food, such as:

  • Outdoor activities like ice skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing.
  • Christmas shopping and decorating.
  • Invite friends and family for a walk and enjoy some conversation while you explore on foot.

You can also make plans to plan out and cook some healthy meals together.

In fact, one of the best ways to avoid eating during social events is to have a decent meal beforehand. You won’t show up with an appetite, which means you can sample one or two treats and focus on the event at hand more than the food. Focus on the experiences and events you’ll get to enjoy, not your next meal!

Create New Traditions

If you really break it down, traditions are simply things that people do because they’ve always done them. And when you think of them like that, a tradition is just a habit that you share with your family.

Is it a bad habit?

For example, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of eggnog on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, but it probably shouldn’t be your beverage of choice with every meal and snack. You also shouldn’t spend too much time stressing about enjoying a cookie or two, but when 2 dozen cookies vanish within a week, it might be time to rethink that particular tradition.

So, what can you do instead? Create new traditions that reflect your new, healthy lifestyle! Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

  • Make family tobogganing an annual event! Get outside, get active, and enjoy the season with a classic activity that’s sure to be fun for everyone.
  • Bake your usual Christmas goodies… for a holiday bake sale. You can still bake up a storm, but you can set a rule that these treats aren’t for you. Donate the proceeds to charity, or find a food bank or kitchen that will accept your baked goods. This is even easier if your little ones have a school bake sale.
  • Go caroling! Find a group of carolers in your community and group up with them. Work on your harmonies, and plan for a fun night out sharing Christmas cheer.
  • Make healthy alternatives to your usual holiday goodies. There are plenty of fun and festive options that don’t load up on sugar and fat that still fit the bill for Christmas.

Set Some Ground Rules

We know, we know, we’ve spent so much time talking about sticking to your meal plan or diet, but honestly, if you can’t enjoy what you eat, what’s the point in it all? It’s okay to enjoy a few Christmas goodies, as your meal plan and diet are all about taking greater control over the foods you eat and feeling better about yourself.

Simply put, one cookie won’t derail you. If you’re genuinely worried that enjoying a drink, some baked goods, and a traditional turkey dinner will truly throw you off your game, then you need to set some ground rules.

Start by determining what’s set in stone: you won’t budge on these ones. They’re the rock you’re going to build your foundation on. For example, you will enjoy a turkey dinner with all the fixings except for mashed potatoes, yams, and stuffing. Or, alternatively, you’re only allowed one Christmas goodie a day, so you have to pick your moments. Skip bread entirely. Say no to second servings.

Whatever your rules are, make sure you know them, and you can stick to them. From there, you can focus more on what things you’re going to let slide a bit, which will let you plan out when you enjoy your treats. This helps you take control over the things that can often feel like overpowering temptations.

If you find yourself overwhelmed at group dinners or meals, offer to bring some healthy options. This can be a simple dish you know everyone will enjoy, or alternatively a veggie platter to help curb party-time snacking. Set yourself up for success!

And remember, don’t drink your calories! Alcohol is another thing you need to be realistic and pragmatic about. If you can skip it entirely, save for a glass of wine with the big dinner and a glass of bubbly to ring in the new year.

Remember that you’re there to be present and engaged with your friends and family. Healthy habits will last you a lifetime, even if you’ve got to work at them a bit. Consider what others will like and dislike when it comes to healthy alternatives (it’s not fair to force your choices on others, after all), but use this opportunity to inspire healthy eating in the whole family! Plan, portion, and stay positive this holiday season.

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