Maintaining healthy habits over the holidays

  • Published
  • By Kirsten David
  • Health Promotion Program

The holiday season brings lots of cheer, spirit and, of course, the holiday celebrations and food.

Because of this, it can be easy to get off track with your healthy eating habits. Many people will just wait until New Year’s Day to focus on their nutrition, but the best thing to do is to start healthy holiday habits now to give you that extra edge going into the New Year.

During the holidays, people tend to be very busy with event after event; sometimes, we forget to eat, which can lead to over-indulging at the event.

So before you attend a holiday party, make sure to eat something healthy to fill you up and decrease cravings. Preferably, eat something with fiber and protein, like an apple with natural peanut butter.

Also, studies show eating a healthy breakfast prevents overeating later in the day. So if you know you are going to be partying it up that evening, don’t skip breakfast.

When you get to the event, there can be a vast selection of delicious food on that table to entice you to want to try it all. Remember to think about the healthy plate model, which consists of half of your plate filled with vegetables.

Don’t just start at one end of the table and fill up your plate with whatever comes next in line. Look up and down the table and find the foods that are mostly vegetables, and then fill up your plate with those first.

After half of your plate is vegetables, the other half should consist of a quarter of lean protein, like turkey, and a quarter of a complex carbohydrate, like a sweet potato.

After you finish eating your first course, walk away from the food table and wait at least 20 minutes to assess your fullness before heading for seconds. Standing away from the food table and focusing on socializing with friends and family will help keep your mind off of food, and more on the actual celebration.

If you still feel hungry, try drinking a large glass of water. Hunger and thirst trigger the same types of signals in your brain, therefore making it hard to distinguish between the two of them.

So you may feel like you need a second helping to ward off the hunger, when drinking only water may suffice.

Start a new holiday tradition and get moving with your loved ones. Make it a habit to go for a walk around the neighborhood after that Thanksgiving meal or have everyone sign up for the local “Santa 5K” event.

Too cold outside? Have a dance party indoors or play an active indoor game like charades — anything that will get you out of your food coma and off the couch!

Always write down your goals. Research shows that having specific goals increases your motivation compared to just being told to do your best.

Setting goals also has been shown to increase your success rate. When writing your goals, make sure they are clearly written and defined.

Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely (SMART), which is a mnemonic device used to explain the desirable quality of goals. For example, don’t just say, “I am going to stay away from all junk food this holiday”; this is a broad goal and may not be realistic.

Instead, a better goal might be: “During holiday season events, I will fill up half of my plate with vegetables and drink a large glass of water. I will then walk away from the food area, and wait 20 minutes to determine my satisfaction level.” This goal is more realistic and attainable.

Don’t wait until Jan. 1 to get started on your goals. Start now making healthy holiday habits that you can continue year after year.