Yes, it is possible to maintain healthy eating during the holiday season. And it is possible to do this while enjoying the full happiness of the season as well.
Interestingly, some individuals are able to maintain such strong focus on their health during the holidays they actually lose unwanted weight during the season and emerge at the other end lighter, more fit and even more healthy than before the season began.
For those who are so inspired, this outcome is possible. However, on average - most people end the holidays 5-7 pounds heavier, which then requires extra diet and fitness work in January and February!
But why put yourself through this? For most of us, making a few simple adjustments now can make it possible to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest while also maintaining optimum energy and vibrance not only during the holiday, but in the New Year to come.
So, what can you do to ensure your holiday nutrition and activities are helping to keep you as healthy and happy as you can possibly be? Here are a some ideas from the CDC and Harvard Health Publishing  with a few other resources to help.
- Budget wisely. Before you attend a party, plan ahead to be choosy. It’s fine to treat yourself but spend your calories judiciously on the foods you love most.
- Take 10 before taking seconds. As you may be aware, it takes a few minutes for your stomach’s signals of fullness to get to your brain. For this reason, it’s good to make it a habit to take a 10-minute break after your first helping of food. Use this time to make conversation. Take a drink of water. At this point, you can re-check your appetite. If you are still hungry, you can choose accordingly. But you may possibly realize at this point you are full or may need only a small portion of additional food.
- Distance helps the heart stay healthy. At events, make it a practice to sit or stand as far away as possible from the refreshment table, which will make it easier to avoid mindlessly reaching for additional food as you talk. It may also be helpful to keep a mint or a stick of gum handy to help prevent you from repeatedly reaching for snacks.
- Don’t go out with an empty tank. Before you leave for an event or party, eat a healthy snack that combines protein with complex carbohydrates and healthy fat. This could be a snack such as apple slices or celery with peanut butter, or a few veggie slices with hummus.
- Drink to your health. Liquid nourishment and hydration are more important than ever during the holidays! Always stay hydrated with plenty of pure water and your favorite hydration helpers from MANTRA – RISE, GO and REST all have hydration minerals. What you don’t drink can be equally important. A glass of eggnog, for example, could set you back 500 calories. Wine, beer, and mixed drinks range from 100 to 225 calories apiece. If you drink alcohol, choose carefully and plan to also drink a glass of water or juice-flavored seltzer in between drinks to stay hydrated and also remember the evening
- Put on your dancing (or walking) shoes. Dancing is a great way to work off holiday calories, so be sure to wear or bring your comfortable shoes! At family gatherings, you can suggest a walk before or after the feast or even between the dinner and the dessert.
- Make room for veggies. At meals and parties, don’t ignore fruits and vegetables. These nutritional foods are high in fiber and antioxidants. They make great snacks and even an better side or main dish, but do watch out for creamy sauces or high-calorie additions such as whipped cream, fried or crunchy toppings or candied nuts.
- Don’t shop hungry. Eat a healthy meal or snack before you go shopping. Learn to enjoy the scent of cinnamon rolls or caramel corn as delicious smells instead of signals to eat. As another hint, a drop of peppermint or citrus under your nose can be satisfying and invigorating while actually inhibiting your need for additional food.
- Cook from (and for) the heart. To show family and friends that you really care about them, make the effort to prepare delicious food that is not unduly high in butter, cream, lard, vegetable shortening or high-calorie toppings.
- Pay attention to what really matters. Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the biggest part of your focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer.
In all, moderation should be your watchword during the holiday season, so that you keep eating healthy and moving, and then, you can afford to indulge in a few of the treats of your choosing as well.
But by being mindful during the holiday season, you can ensure maximum happiness, health and energy not only now, but for the new year season to follow and for many additional years and holiday seasons to come.
1 “Twelve Tips for Holiday Eating,” by Patrick J. Skerrett, Harvard Health Publishing, Dec. 24, 2012, updated August 29, 2019.