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Nutritional Strategies for the Holidays

 Nutritional Strategies for the Holidays

If you are the average American, it may feel like you gain 5-10 lbs. during the holiday season. However, several studies have been shown that typical weight gain is actually closer to 1-2 lbs. This may not seem like a lot, often because those pounds seem to stick around and after a few years the extra can start to add up!  It’s no wonder that year after year, the biggest New Years resolution in January is weight loss. It seems that with the holiday season coming, we let down our healthier dietary regimen and give in to more comfort foods, social events, etc. Biologically, the winter cold brings a slightly slower metabolism, less desire for activity and exercise due to colder weather, more opportunities for social gatherings, etc. It's the perfect storm for packing on unwanted pounds.

There’s no reason you can’t indulge a bit without abandoning your healthy diet entirely! Here are a few tips to help you navigate the holiday season without gaining extra weight and still indulge. Maybe you’ll even have a different New Year’s resolution – like more travel!

1)      Don’t skip meals in order to make up for a larger meal later in the day.  This can negatively affect your blood sugar and actually lead to over eating! Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast to help you consume less calories throughout the day. Additional fruits and vegetables high in fiber can also act to fill you up and help you consume less food overall.

2)      Holiday meals tend to be large, buffet style menus. Start by filling your plate with a small portion of many different foods. If you find yourself still hungry, you can always go back for seconds. Or even dessert! Surprisingly, most people will be satisfied with only one plate!

3)      Choose a smaller plate.  This simple technique will fool your brain into thinking you have filled up your plate. Helps with portion control too.

4)      Opt for hot cocoa or spiced cider instead of a calorie rich egg nog. Or use alternative milks with healthier fats like almond milk, coconut milk or coconut cream.

5)      Bring a plate of fresh vegetables and hummus dip to the potluck. It will provide a fresh, crisp alternative to the holiday menu.

6)      Roasting your proteins and vegetables is a great way to eat healthy. This brings out the natural sweetness in the vegetables. Adding herbs to roasted meats can really bring a lot of flavor and herbs can really impact flavor while roasting keeps the meat tender and juicy. This helps to avoid adding sugary glazes or heavy sauces.

7)      Focus on herbs and strong flavors to replace heavier dishes. Instead of the standard creamy green bean casserole, try some sautéed green beans with sesame oil, shallots, tarragon, and garnish with some sliced roasted almonds and dried cranberries for crunch and sweetness.

8)      Eat mindfully – eat slowly, chewing your food well. Savor every bite and engage in conversation with friends and family while you eat.  This practice engages our “rest and digest” or parasympathetic nervous system and aids in digestion of food and allows you to really enjoy the meal and those around you.

9)      Smell your food before rushing in to eat it. The scents can heighten the flavors while eating and your appetite will be satiated sooner.

10)   Have a healthy snack or salad before heading over to a gathering. You’ll end up eating less and healthier!

11)   Limit your alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks. These can really add up If you’re not paying attention. Lots of extra sugar and you’ll wake up feeling bad the next day. Drink a glass of sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime (and an umbrella) in between alcoholic beverages.

12)   Keep healthy snacks at your desk during the day. Fill up on nuts, veggies, etc so you are not tempted to go to the break room and load up on donuts, cookies and other sweets.

13)   Don’t linger around the buffet or serving table. Move your conversations to a distant part of the room. Having foods closer by will make it easier to grab more food than you really want.

14)   For dessert, do indulge and have one serving.  And choosing a slice of pumpkin pie is a healthier alternative than a fruit pie with 2 crusts.

15)   After dinner, resist the urge to fall asleep on the couch. Help clean up the dishes, go for a walk or engage in an activity that gets you moving.

16)   Try an 80/20 eating approach. Eating healthy 80 percent of the time and indulging 20 percent of the time can be a great way to get into the holiday spirit at parties and gatherings without the guilt.

These tips can help you manage eating through the myriad of holiday gatherings without feeling overly full and gaining extra pounds. It is always a great time of year to remember that we need a bit more self-care than usual to keep our energetic bodies strong, grounded and connected. Normal everyday stress is hard enough to manage and the addition of holiday stresses of family, decorating, shopping, gatherings, etc. can take it’s toll on us. Set aside time daily to do yoga, meditate, read a book, or just enjoy a cup of tea wrapped in a cozy blanket. 

Most of all, take some time to really enjoy the holiday season. Make a new family tradition or find a new holiday related activity you enjoy!

Wishing you many bright and joyous Holidays!

Want more valuable nutritional tips from Marva? You can contact her at 303-478-8047 or visit her website at www.healingtouchnutrition.com 

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