Happy, Healthy Holidays!
By Hannah Chow, USC Student, Be Well Blogger
It’s officially holiday season! And while that means home, family, and friends from back home, it also means big gatherings with lots of food. Healthy holiday eating can be difficult when there is so much good food, but remember – healthy eating is mostly about eating in moderation and making small changes that have a big impact.
Contrary to popular belief, people do not gain 5-10 pounds over the holidays. According to the National Institute of Health, we only gain about a pound on average. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is the kind of thing that can add up quickly. But don’t despair! Being healthy and well during the holidays can be easy. The following is a variety of tips and tricks to help you get through the holiday season.
Tips for Eating Well During the Holiday Season
Make every bite count
Cravings are a big part of holiday eating. The cookies your neighbor brings you every year, your grandmother’s special pie – it can be a lot if you’re trying to stay healthy. The key, however, is moderation – think about which foods hold the most meaning for you and what you’ll enjoy eating the most. Don’t deny yourself, but think about going lighter on treats that you can get all year long and indulge in the ones that are special to this holiday season.
Forget dieting during the holidays. Focus on moderation, balance, and variety rather than trying to count calories. Try balancing special meals and holiday parties with other meals during the season.
Just move on
You munched on chips before dinner, you had 2 plates of food, and now you’re on your second slice of pie. You can’t go back and change it, so you might as well enjoy the food you did eat and know that every calorie was well spent. Guilt during the holiday season can put such a damper on a happy and festive mood. Again, if it’s good food then there’s no need to say “I shouldn’t have eaten that.”
Eat regular meals and snacks
Eat breakfast! Not just any breakfast, but one that will keep you full and satisfied for the rest of your day: fruit, hot cereal, eggs, vegetables. A good breakfast helps you avoid big hunger and cravings throughout the day. Depriving yourself of meals during the day so you can eat more at evening parties can result in unhealthier eating and can establish a bad routine for regular days.
Load up on fruits and veggies
Fruits and vegetables are always your best bet when it comes to holiday eating. There are usually plenty of veggie options for sides during holiday meals, and fruit can help satisfy any sweet cravings throughout the day. The holiday season is only 4 weeks out of 52 – we’re defined by what we do day in and day out, not once in a while.
Drink calories count!
Drinks are often not thought of when thinking about calorie intake. However, holiday beverages like hot chocolate, egg nog, apple cider, and mixed holiday drinks can contain a lot of sugar and added fat. Try alternating sparkling water with lemon or lime with other beverages.
Healthy Hacks for Holiday Menus
For when you’re tasked with throwing the party yourself or providing food for a party:
Use beautiful, season produce
Seasonal produce always makes it feel like the holidays: juicy red pears, vibrant clementines, sweet figs, chewy California dates . . . the list is endless. Not to mention that because these foods are supposed to be growing this time of year, they are fresher, have a higher nutritional value, cheaper, and taste much better.
Providing a big bowl of nuts is a healthier alternative to chips for munching on. Having nuts in the shell is even better because it curbs how many you and your guests will eat.
Broth based soups
Alternative to cream or milk based soups, broth based soups are lighter and healthier so your guests won’t fill up on the first course.
½ whole wheat flour for ½ all-purpose flour
Evaporated skim milk for regular evaporated milk
Low fat milk for whole milk
Turkey stuffed with citrus rather than stuffing
Pumpkin pie for pecan pie
Fresh yeast roll for biscuits
Rice for stuffing
Light mayo for regular
Remember, the key to everything is moderation. The holidays should be a time to focus on family, friends, and joy – stressing out about what you’re eating all the time can put a damper on your mood. Be conscious of what you’re eating, but keep in mind that it’s all about balancing. Keep yourself moving – exercise is a great stress reducer. Consciously relax and meditate. Let others help you out. Pick your priorities. The holidays are a wonderful time of year – enjoy them and fight on!