How to eat healthy this holiday season

How to eat healthy this holiday season

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Okinawa

Halloween candy, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies, apple crisp, roast beef and Christmas cookies are all tantalizingly good treats and easily available over the holidays. From Oct. 31 - Jan. 2, you might as well just give up on your diet, right? Whether you’re at a family holiday party or a work soiree, there is sure to be a plethora of tempting treats guaranteed to break your healthy eating habits. However, if you go into this holiday season with a plan, and actually stick to it, you can make it out of the holiday season alive with barely an extra ounce on your thighs to show for it. Here’s how:

1. Halloween candy can be frozen. Those bite size pieces of heaven in a wrapper can be addicting, and we all know how easy it is to destroy a bag of Reese’s before we even realize what happened. Instead of trying to get rid of all the Halloween candy before it goes bad, consider freezing some of it. That will extend the life of the candy and save you from eating an entire grocery bag full by the time November has come to an end. Gradually work on eating leftover candy over a long period of time (you don’t want all that sugary goodness going to waste). You can be rest assured knowing there is a stash of Kit Kat bars in the freezer, in case you have to have it. 

2. Turkey is actually good for you, before you add all the gravy, dressing and extras. Oftentimes, Thanksgiving is centered on a turkey. The turkey itself is good for you, as it is packed with protein and low in calories and fat. Instead of loading your plate with mashed potatoes, dressing and covering everything in gravy, consider eating more turkey with less gravy. Obviously, don’t skip on the other items, just eat them in moderation.

3. You don’t actually need to sample every single type of Christmas cookie. Though it may seem like a good idea to taste every cookie from every platter, it’s probably not necessary. All that sugar will start to blend together and you won’t even remember which cookie tastes better. Stick to eating one or two of your favorites and then STOP! Easier said than done, of course, but you’ll thank yourself later.

4. If you’re really afraid of temptation, eat before you go to a gathering. If you already know that the food won’t be particularly healthy, or that you won’t be able to control yourself, eat a meal before you go to the holiday gathering. No one said that you had to eat 2,000 calories in one sitting because it was Christmas.

5. Make your contribution healthy. Lots of holiday gatherings are potluck style and everyone brings a dish to share. If you’re worried about not finding anything healthy to eat, make sure your contribution to the food is healthy. Fruit and veggie plates are the obvious choice, but also consider trying to make any other dish you come up with healthier. You can do this by replacing butter with unsweetened applesauce, reducing the amount of sugar used or even just using fat-free milk instead of whole. You could even add more vegetables to a casserole than cheese, as horrible as that sounds.

6. Fill up on fruits and veggies before you go for the good stuff. An easy way to make sure you won’t overeat at a party is to fill up on fruits and veggies before you start with anything else. That way you won’t be tempted to destroy the Snickers cheesecake that Aunt Betty made. However, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so a small slice of cheesecake is totally acceptable!

7. Avoid drinking in excess. All those extra calories in alcoholic drinks can really sneak up on you. One six-pack of beer alone has over 800 calories, not including the chips and dip usually accompanying it on football game days. To cut calories, make mixed drinks with seltzer water and drink a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage. Perhaps even try drinking light beer, if you’re really committed to keeping the weight off.

All these little changes to your eating habits over the holidays can add up to a big difference. If you’re serious about your diet, put forth the extra effort to keep the weight off. However, lose the guilt. The holidays are a time for celebration and being around loved ones. At the end of the day, if you eat those extra cookies and gain a few pounds, does it really matter? Hit the gym with every other person in your town after the New Year and regret eating too much then. In the meantime, Happy Holidays! May your turkey be stuffed and your cookies be frosted!

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