Healthy Holiday Meals: It’s All In The Planning

Most holidays revolve around eating.  Let’s face it, food seems to be the “main event” that brings us together.  A healthy holiday menu for family and friends can be simple with a bit of planning.

Think Ahead

There are bounties of resources for creating beautiful holiday meals and treats for your guests that are lighter in calories and fat than traditional faire without sacrificing flavor.  You can control how many calories you eat by simply thinking ahead about the dishes your family normally enjoys and determining how you can prepare them 1.)  Light (less fat),   2.)  Bright (more veggies), and 3.) Early in the Night.  An early evening meal will give your guests the opportunity to be more active as they digest their food.  Of course, planning winter activities can also help deal with this challenging time.  Look for ways that the entire family can get involved such as an early evening walk, interactive electronic games, or even a sport of choice in the backyard.  If weather is a factor, make use of indoor facilities such as local community centers that often have available sporting venues such as basketball courts, table tennis, etc.  Family excursions can present unique opportunities for exercise-based activities and enjoyment for everyone.

Choose Wisely

When faced with the foods we love, it’s often difficult to maintain any sense of control around the holidays.  To this I say, “eat what you love and love what you eat…. in moderation that is.”  Many times we approach the holidays with anxieties; worried about the foods we know are bad for us. We then tell ourselves that we are going to avoid those foods altogether in order to maintain our weight loss efforts.  Unfortunately, self-denial usually leads to an opposite phenomenon, self-indulgence.  Avoiding the foods we really enjoy usually causes us to eat more of the foods that we don’t enjoy as much.  Therefore, it’s best to approach the holiday season realistically knowing that you’ll be exposed to foods you really love and will likely consume them.  The difference is that this season you can plan to eat only the foods you absolutely love while minimizing those you don’t care so much about.  In other words, save room for the good stuff (in moderation) so that you won’t feel deprived.

Work With What You Have

While dining with family or friends, we don’t always have control of the foods being served around holiday events.  It’s during these times that we must plan to work with what we have.  Take an active role in simply minimizing foods a little higher in fat while at the same time focusing on items that will help satisfy you at a smaller caloric price (salads/veggies, broth-based soups, etc.).  These foods add volume to a meal so that you can still enjoy the higher fat items in moderation while being full and satisfied. 

Let’s plan to reduce our anxiety over holiday food weight gain by choosing the types and amounts wisely, and above all- enjoy the season!