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10 Healthy Eating Strategies for the Holidays

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Fend off Holiday Weight-Gain with these Easy Tips and Tricks

‘Tis the season.... fun, lights, spending time with family, and of course all the delicious food that only comes this time of year. Your Aunt Ruth’s famous chocolate cream pie, Mom’s Christmas cookies, and Dad’s eggnog punch. You want to be good and eat healthy, but the temptation is overwhelming. Food gets personal. Many family members and friends will question your decisions to sustain and possibly pressure you to “just try one.” In most cases, our family and friend’s want what’s best for us and even think they know what’s best for us.

“What’s wrong with you? You’ve always loved chocolate pie!”

You’ll take some flak for politely declining your Aunt Ruth’s pie – bless her heart for making it for you – but if you don’t want to eat it, you don’t have to.


Remember, you always have a choice – you have 100% free agency over every morsel that crosses your lips. 

When family is close, drama isn’t far behind, and suddenly that jug of eggnog looks especially cuddly. Emotional eating can wreak havoc when you’re trying to eat healthy, but if you want to limit the damage to your waistline here are 10 simple tips to help you.

Tip #1:  Be prepared!

Eat on schedule which is every 3-5 hours depending on your activity level.  Be aware of falling into the common hidden trap of “saving” all of your calories for dinner.  Have a plan to not let yourself get too hungry or too full.  Pack wholesome snacks for eating-on-the go. Choose lean proteins and unrefined carbohydrates such as a small handful of almonds or nutrition bars like Lara bars, KIND bars, or Perfect Bars. Remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You should include a lean protein to keep you feeling satisfied. One of our favorite go-to breakfasts: oatmeal, berries, and almond butter. Yum!

Tip #2: Drink alcohol in moderation.

Alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat.  It also slows down the metabolism, is high in empty calories, is easily stored as fat, and increases the likelihood of overeating. A good trick is to drink a mock drink such as sparkling or plain water with a lime. This will hydrate you and keep people from offering you another drink or asking why you’re not drinking. You know your limits and can stick to them.

Tip #3: You can eat what you really like and want.

If you limit any food completely, then you might fall victim to the depressing “D” word (a.k.a. “diet”). It’s ok to indulge, but don’t over-indulge. Instead of a 3-inch piece of pie, go for a 1-inch piece and enjoy every bite. Depriving yourself can actually backfire. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that “goal-deviation behaviors” (i.e., eating non-diet food on a diet) helped people self-regulate, stay motivated to meet their goals and feel positive. All foods are ok in moderation.

Tip #5: Get your Zzzz.

Sleep is so important and quality sleep can assist you in stimulation of the growth hormone, which prepares our bodies for the next day. Without sufficient sleep (7-8 hours a night) our bodies have an increased tendency for storing fat. If you find yourself falling a little short of the 7-8 hours a night, try a 20-minute powernap.  Add Patchouli and Frankincense essential oils, or lavender oil to a diffuser, use a humidifier at night or take a yoga Nidra class which is equivalent to 6-7 hours of sleep.

Tip #6: Hydrate!

Did you know we are 70% water?! Aim for ½-1 ounce of water per pound of body weight and more with exercise. Mineral water is best for your mitochondria.

If you drink any type of beverage that acts like a diuretic (makes you pee more), replace it cup for cup with water. Add a lemon wedge to your water as lemon is excellent for detoxing.

Tip #7: Eat the rainbow for optimal health and metabolism.

Count colors on your plate, not calories. If you know the food at a holiday party is not going to be healthy and might tempt you to eat junk, bring a nutrient-rich dish to share.

Tip #8: Portion and proportion matters.

Divide your plate into thirds (handful or two of veggies, handful of a starch, and an open palm-size portion of protein). If you’re still hungry after eating, give it some time before going back for more. It takes your brain a good 20 minutes to signal that you are comfortably full.

Tip #9: Hang with the healthy crowd.

One of the hardest parts about sticking to a healthy diet is remaining social. During the holidays going to the bar or out to dinner with friends can make it difficult to say no to food and drinks that have the ability to derail your diet in a matter of sips or bites. Research shows behaviors are contagious. Being in the company of other health conscious people helps to keep you on track. 

Tip #10: Practice Presence and mindfulness.

Taste your food - Most people think they overeat because they have a willpower problem. “If only I could control my appetite, then I would stop being such a willpower weakling and start losing weight.” Well, here’s the good news – you don’t have a willpower problem. The problem for a majority of overeaters is that they don’t actually “eat” when they eat. What I’m suggesting is that we aren’t always fully present to the meal, aware of its taste, eating it slowly, or simply feeling nourished by the food. When this happens, the brain, which requires taste and satisfaction, misses out on a key phase of the nutritional experience. The brain literally thinks it didn’t eat or didn’t eat enough. And it simply screams back at us – “Hungry!” So, you can dramatically decrease your overeating by increasing your awareness and presence at every meal according to Marc David, the Founder & Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

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Barbara Murphy-Shannon is a Mindset Business Coach for Women Entrepreneurs. She puts out a weekly blog, offers workshops and retreats. Barbara@barbaramurphyshannon.com