It’s Game Time. It’s the day everyone’s been waiting for. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, most of us have a big meal planned to share with loved ones. While it’s a fun, heart-warming time, it can also be stressful to say the least. Between menu planning, seating arrangements, awkward or uncomfortable dinner conversations, there’s always something to stress about. I’m here to help alleviate some of that stress. At least with the healthy eating part.
Here are my top tips for maintaining healthy eating for the big event:
- Eat Breakfast: It may seem counter-intuitive, but eat morning-of. People rationalize not eating by stating they are saving their calories for dinner. Not smart. Since when did these holiday dinners mean engorging yourself with food until you are uncomfortable? Sure, you don’t eat turkey, ham, or stuffing every day, but it doesn’t mean you should be shoveling food into your gullet with a ladle. Be reasonable. I certainly eat more than I normally do on these days, don’t get me wrong. But I care about maintaining my healthy lifestyle more than eating 4 servings of candied yams. Anyway – back to breakfast. Eat it please. Fasting = Overeating. Enjoy a bowl of oatmeal, yogurt with berries, or a piece of whole-grain toast with nut butter. This will keep you satisfied throughout the morning while you mentally prepare for the arrival of Aunt Bea and Uncle Jim…
- Socialize: You aren’t entering a competitive eating contest; you are a civilized human being sharing the experience of a holiday meal with your loved ones. Slow down, enjoy your food, but enjoy your company more.
- Taste Test: I get it. You aren’t going to just have one helping of food. Neither am I, honestly. But at the very least, make sure you are eating the foods that are worthy of more than one serving. Use your first plate as a time to “taste” the spread. And by taste, I mean taste. Take a small dollop of each offering to determine what’s worthy of the inevitable seconds.
- Save Room for Dessert: For some, dessert is the real main event. Holiday goodies steal the show in our house. After Christmas dinner with the immediate family, we extend the invite to all members of the family (like aunts, uncles, cousins) to join us for dessert. Many people bring their own goodies to share with the crew, so there are plenty of devilish delights to choose from. There’s nothing worse than being so uncomfortably full from dinner that you struggle to fit Grandma’s banana bread in your mouth, even though you’ve been looking forward to it all year. Be proactive and remember last year. Also, use the same mentality with dessert as you did for dinner. If the prospect of all the goodies excites you, do another “taste test”. Try a little bit of several different desserts and share them with others. This is my favorite way to satisfy my sweet tooth.
- Make it Healthy: if you are tasked with cooking the meal, consider swapping traditional ingredients for healthy alternatives that won’t compromise flavor. So many recipes can be made healthy with simple substitutions, such as whole wheat flour for white flour, applesauce for sugar, or 1% milk for the whole fat version. Click here for more healthy recipe swaps. (greatest.com/health/83-healthy-recipe-substitutions)
- Bring Something Healthy: If you are heading to someone else’s house for your holiday meal, consider making a side yourself. Not only does this ensure you’ll have a side you love, but you can control how it’s made and what’s in it! I do this every Thanksgiving, as we go to my brother-in-law’s house. I can count on there not being ANY healthy alternatives, and almost no veggies, so I make sure to bring a side I can feel good about. This year, I brought oven-roasted Brussels sprouts and leeks. So delicious –and I got some green on my plate!
- Share the Love: If you are hosting your holiday meal, consider sharing the leftovers with your guests. “Make a plate” of the holiday meal in containers you don’t mind giving up (maybe pick up some Tupperware just for this) and send them home with your loved ones. This way, you don’t feel obligated to eat all the leftovers in the house. Just make sure to leave some for you.