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Don’t let food stress you out this holiday season

From our experts: Jessi Holden is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Mary Free Bed. In this blog, she shares some tips for managing your health during the holidays.

The holiday season is here, and while it’s a time for celebration, it also can cause stress. Maintaining your health, physically and mentally, throughout the holidays is about improving our healthy coping skills.

Here are my top 10 tips for enjoying holiday staples and traditions without sacrificing your health:

  1. Don’t fall into the day-before/day-after trap. We may indulge on the holiday, but telling yourself “now the whole week is shot, so it doesn’t matter what I eat,” can impact our health physically and emotionally. Instead, continue healthy habits every day, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and being physically active. These help us keep health a priority.
  2. Don’t “should/shouldn’t” yourself into a food choice. When we say, “I shouldn’t eat this, but it’s so good!”, we end up feeling guilty. This decreases our ability to enjoy what we eat. Choose what you want to eat, and don’t justify your choice to anyone (including yourself).
  3. Healthify your traditional recipes! Try cutting back on salt or added sugar by one third to one half of the amount a recipe calls for. Most recipes taste just as great, and no one will notice the difference.
  4. Take some breaths in between bites to savor the flavor and texture of your food. This helps us slow down and recognize our satisfaction/fullness cues.
  5. If you’re full but want to eat more (because, yes, it’s delicious), consider making a plate and wrapping it up in the fridge for later or the next day.
  6. Do an activity after the meal with your family to get everyone moving. Consider taking a family walk or playing charades. A good belly laugh is good for the heart!
  7. Are you focusing on spending time with grandkids? Having a meaningful conversation with a family member? Playing cards? Don’t make food the focus of your gathering.
  8. Drink water in between alcoholic beverages. If you choose to indulge, sip slowly and savor it, just as you would your food.
  9. Take some time for yourself by scheduling a massage, reading a book, taking a walk or spending time with an old friend. When we enrich our lives with things that bring us joy, it helps us feel more positive.
  10. Set out some fun and healthy snacks to munch on throughout the day. Charcuterie boards loaded with cheese and meat are common, but consider fruits, vegetables and a fun trail mix. Here’s an easy way to make your own healthier trail mix:
Healthy Holiday Snack Mix
  • 1 cup of dried fruit (preferably reduced or no added sugar; dried fruit is sweet on its own):
    • Cranberries, banana chips, mangos, raisins or crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup of your favorite nut/seed (or mix a few together):
    • Unsalted roasted peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups of something crunchy:
    • Homemade or store-bought granola that’s low in added sugar (5-10% per serving)
    • Whole grain cereal such as Chex or Oatmeal Squares
    • Low salt pretzels
    • Air-popped popcorn (After it pops, add a fun seasoning such as apple pie spice or chipotle powder)
  • 1/2 cup of something sweet:
    • Chocolate chips
    • Yogurt-covered fruit
    • Shredded, unsweetened coconut
    • Mini marshmallows
    • A sweeter cereal, such as frosted corn flakes

Most importantly, remember to enjoy the holiday without guilt.

Need more help? Get one-on-one support or join our Weight Management program to start your lifestyle changes now. For more information, visit our website, call 616.840.8908 or email mfbweightmanagement@maryfreebed.com.

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