The Importance of Healthy Holiday EatingMost people would like to maintain a healthy diet during the holiday season. There are many social events to celebrate--we love to look our best when we're there, and we don't always look our best with bloated stomachs and pained expressions on our faces from too much of the 'bad stuff'. We also need healthy food to provide us with the energy necessary to go to all of these parties with smile on face, gift in hand, and enthusiastic attitude in heart. Starting the new year with some healthy habits in place, rather than a long list of things to change, can also add momentum toward reaching other goals. The unfortunate reality is that many of us have a hard time with healthy eating during the holidays.
Challenges of Holiday EatingHoliday eating challenges abound. We face more stressors and challenges at this time than we do during most of the rest of the year. Here are some holiday eating challenges that come up during December:
- Abundant and Amazing Food: The holiday season is when we bring out the gingerbread (in cookie, man, and house form!), the candy canes, the cookies, and all the party food! It's easy to eat too much of the wrong thing. It's also the time of year when people cook really delicious food in abundance: turkeys, roasts, honey-baked hams and other great foods are the centerpieces of feasts that tempt us to eat larger portions than we need. Many of us are more tempted than normal to stuff ourselves, and not always with the healthiest fare.
- Holiday Stress: The holiday season is a busy, and often stressful, time of year. We're rushing too much, spending too much, and letting perfectionism and stress take hold of us all too often. This can lead to emotional eating.
- Convenient Excuses: People who are celebrating often indulge more than they would in their regular lives. When celebrating the holidays, there are several occasions where people might relax their dietary standards a little, in the name of celebration. These celebrations, however, can be rather plentiful during the holiday season, and the indulgences ("Oh, look--the neighbors made us fudge!" "Hey, it's a party! Why not have another piece of pie?" etc.) can add up.
Hope For Holiday EatingFortunately for all of us, there are some pretty effective ways to combat holiday eating woes, and they're (mostly) under your control. Short of "going Grinch" and keeping everyone from sharing their holiday deliciousness, you can minimize the damage and start the new year off with a sense of pride and motivation rather than a feeling of regret and an iffy sense of hope for change. The following strategies can help you curb holiday eating without minimizing the joy and enjoyment you feel during the holiday season:
- Learn About Emotional Eating: As you may already know, too much stress can lead to altered eating patterns--eating too much, too little, or foods that aren't altogether healthy for us. The holidays are no exception, of course, and can be much more difficult to manage because of the factors listed above. Learning about the causes and solutions for emotional eating can go a long way toward helping with holiday eating challenges.
Learn More About Emotional Eating Here
- Add Some Spice: Adding certain spices to your foods can not only make them more flavorful (which can lead you to feeling more satisfied as you eat), but these spices can bring added health benefits as well.
Learn How To Spice Up Your Diet
- Try Mindful Eating: One healthy eating strategy that has been gaining popularity lately started as a stress relief strategy: mindful eating. By eating mindfully, you can eat less and savor your food more, relieving stress in the process. It's win-win-win!
Learn More About The Practice Of Mindful Eating
- Plan Ahead: Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. If you plan ahead, you can head off temptation for unhealthy holiday eating. For example, if you're going to a party or an event where you know you'll be tempted, eat some healthy food first so you won't show up starving and have only decadent options at your disposal. Learn your triggers, and have strategies for combating them.
Common Diet Traps And How To Avoid Them
- Exercise Your Right To Get A Workout: Exercise can be a good stress reliever, and is great for the waistline as well, of course. Another thing that many people have mentioned is that when they workout, they find themselves craving the 'naughty foods' less, perhaps if for no other reason than they don't want to undo the good they did when they were working out. Whatever the reason, exercise brings multiple benefits, and is a great ally in the war against poor holiday eating habits. Enlist exercise, and see the benefits for yourself.
Learn More About Exercise for Stress Relief