The holidays are coming up, and the season generally brings along feelings of celebration and cheer. However, for those of us with health-related goals, it can also bring with it feelings of stress and guilt due to the many events that center on food and desserts.
It can feel impossible to stay on track with our nutrition goals when we’re being bombarded with cookies and pies at every turn. There are, however, some simple tips and tricks that we can utilize to help navigate the season in a healthy way.
Here are some ideas to help you navigate the holiday season successfully:
Find your cornerstone habits
I like to think of cornerstone habits as the behaviors that are easy for us to maintain even while out of our typical routine, and that leave us feeling good. These will be unique for each person. Some examples might be:
- Staying hydrated by drinking water throughout the day
- Getting in a walk each day
- Starting the day with a solid breakfast
- Adding in a fruit or veggie to each meal
- Not eating within 2 hours of bedtime
The idea behind setting cornerstone habits is that they are often small, realistic behaviors that we can incorporate into our day even while traveling or having events to attend. It can be helpful to hone in on 2-3 of these during the holiday season, and give yourself more flexibility in other areas.
Don’t skip meals
It can be tempting to skip breakfast or forego lunch if you know you have a big dinner planned, but this can lead to overindulging later on. Start your day with a nutritious breakfast and have a filling snack during the day. Then, still enjoy the holiday meal while sticking with moderate portions.
Visit the people, not the food
The holidays are about spending time with loved ones. Center your gatherings around conversation and togetherness, rather than the food!
Set realistic goals
Part of cultivating a growth mindset is being realistic and upfront with ourselves. We need to be honest about what we can and cannot reasonably accomplish. For example, while “I’m not going to eat any dessert the entire holiday season” is unrealistic for most of us, “I’m not going to eat any cookies at the office” is entirely doable. It can also be helpful to share these goals with others. Friends can serve as a source for accountability, and who knows…maybe they’ll want to join in on this goal with you!
Even the best laid plans can go awry. Think about what usually trips you up. Do you skimp too much on dinner and then lose it the dessert table? Snack on too many appetizers or snacks before the meal starts? Drink too quickly and have to keep refilling your calorie-laden beverage? Setting up an alternative plan before the event prevents you from having to make decisions in the heat of the moment and reduces your reliance on willpower.
Celebrate your victories
Don’t forget to celebrate your victories this holiday season, even if you experienced some slip-ups. It’s all a learning process, and you can use what did and didn’t go well this year as tools for revamping your goals for next year.
Brush it off afterwards
Remember, no single meal (or day) can ruin all of the progress you’ve made. Progress comes from the things we do consistently most of the time, rather than the things we do some of the time. If you feel you made some unhealthier choices, simply “brush it off” and move on the next day by diving right back into your healthy habits. No need to over-restrict or feel guilty. We’re all human, and slip-ups happen!
Offer to bring a dish
Events where we are invited as guests can be a bit tricky to navigate as we aren’t in control of the menu. By offering to bring a healthier side dish or appetizer (everyone loves a fruit or veggie tray!), you set yourself up for success and ensure there is at least one healthy item to choose from. For some additional ideas here are some nutritious and fun appetizer options that could be served at your next event!
Kaitlin Bruun, RD, LD has a BS in Dietetics from North Dakota State University. She is originally from northern MN and has lived in Rochester for over 4 years. She has a passion for helping others reach their health and wellness goals, and enjoys helping others implement sustainable healthy habits in their own life. In her free time, you can find her gardening, biking, walking, lifting weights, and traveling back up to the northern part of the state.
Contact Kaitlin Bruun
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