With countless opportunities to enjoy sweet, savory and decadent dishes at family gatherings, holiday parties and special events, combined with treats tempting us at virtually every store (food or otherwise), it’s no wonder most people overindulge during the holidays.
Blame it on food marketing, the societal draw or stress, but 87 percent of Americans say they have an increase in food cravings this time of year and 75 percent experience guilt after giving into their cravings, a recent poll found.
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and food is a big part of that enjoyment, but overindulging from now until New Year’s Eve can cause weight gain, affect mood, interfere with sleep and make your family more likely to get sick.
With a bit of planning and some simple strategies however, you can enjoy all the season has to offer without all the pitfalls. Consider these 7 healthy holiday tips for your family.
1. Don’t arrive hungry
If you know your family will eat a large holiday meal later on in the day, you might be tempted to skip meals.
If you arrive feeling famished however, you’ll be more likely to overeat when the meal is served.
Skipping breakfast in particular is a mistake. Studies show people who eat breakfast, especially one that’s high in protein, eat less calories throughout the day.
Do your best to serve healthy meals and snacks at the same times you and your family usually eat.
The same goes if dinner will be served in the middle of the day, although you may want to have a snack instead of a meal. A combination of protein and fiber like celery sticks and hummus or an apple with almond butter is ideal.
2. Bake healthy
Between pumpkin pie, eggnog and all those Christmas cookies, there will be plenty of sweets to go around, but that doesn’t mean everything you make has to be high in calories, fat and sugar.
With a few simple substitutions, there are several ways to bake healthy during the holidays and still enjoy all the desserts.
Check out my healthy holiday baking tips here.
3. Bring a healthy dish
If you’ll be attending a holiday event at someone else’s home, offer to bring a healthy dish that everyone can enjoy.
If your kids have food allergies or someone in the family has specific dietary restrictions or preferences, bringing a healthy dish is also a great way to keep them safe and ensure they have something to eat as well.
4. Model healthy eating habits
You can teach your kids how to enjoy all the delicious food without going overboard by taking small, healthy portions, making choices about what goes on your plate and enjoying everything in moderation.
When most people are reaching for second and third portions, you can show your child that it’s possible to enjoy the food without stuffing your face.
5. Get moving
To help burn off excess calories, combat stress and keep everyone on an even keel, carve out time before or after a holiday celebration to do something active.
This can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, a game of catch in the backyard, an indoor dance party or a game of Twister.
6. Make sleep a priority
Irregular schedules and later-than-usual bedtimes can throw everyone in the family off schedule.
Without enough sleep, everyone will be more irritable and more likely to reach for food and make unhealthy food choices.
In fact, an August 2018 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that kids who regularly fell asleep after 11pm were 2 to 3 times more likely to eat junk food at least 5 times a week.
8. Give kids a kids-sized plate
Kids don’t need the same size dinner plate as adults, and may end up eating more because of it.
Make sure your kid has a kid-sized plate or an appetizer plate to keep portions healthy.
9. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues
When food is in abundance during the holidays, it’s easy to overeat. Paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues however, can prevent you from reaching for seconds.
If your kids tend to overeat on special occasions too, depending on their ages, you can talk to them about eating when they’re hungry and to stop when they’re not hungry.
Sure, there’s always room for dessert but teaching them how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues can prevent them from eating just because the food is there.
10. Strike a balance
Raising kids to be healthy eaters includes teaching them how to enjoy delicious food, not be deprived of it.
Allow treats, but also strike a balance by serving plenty of healthy, whole foods including plenty of vegetables when you’re not celebrating.