10 Tips for Healthy Eating During the Holidays

Welcome to the November 2012 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Healthy Holiday Meals. This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about how they are making healthy choices during their holiday celebrations.

Healthy eating during the holidays is always a challenge for me and something I have been working on for a number of years. It is especially difficult for me because I have a sweet tooth and have a hard time resisting sweets. I also grew up in a family of amazing bakers and cooks so some of our family traditions revolve around some extra special sweet treats and rich foods that we all look forward to every holiday season; my biggest weakness is for my mom’s homemade cookies and my grandmother’s homemade candies!


As part of my journey to eat healthier, not just during the holidays but year round, I thought it would be fun to share some tips I’ve learned and incorporate into my eating habits to help you all eat a little healthier during the holidays.


1. Limit the amount of sweet foods you have in the house. I put this tip first because for me this is the key to my success in eating healthier. If I don’t have a lot of sweet foods in the house, I don’t eat them. It is that simple. Yet this is a hard tip for me to stick to because of my sweet tooth and sugar cravings! I’m trying to train my body to crave have less sugar and thus reduce my sweet food cravings. If I resist buying sweet snacks or chocolate at the store it is not in the house so I reach for healthier snacks when I’m hungry.


2. Reduce or substitute the sugar in a recipe. I’ve been experimenting the last few weeks with using less sugar than a recipe calls for or replacing it with an alternative more natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup; these both have sugar in them too but the way my body responds to the sugar is different than using straight unrefined cane sugar. By using less sugar or sweetener than the recipe calls for, it creates a lightly sweet treat instead of a super sweet sugary treat and also helps to reduce my sugar cravings!


3. Freeze some of your sweet treats to eat later. During the holidays we’re inundated with treats like homemade cookies, candies and sweet breads. Since I can’t resist eating it all if it is in the house, I freeze portions of the baked goods we’re given around the holidays to limit the amount we have in the house at one time. It also provides an easy enjoyable treat after the holidays, just take out what you want from the freezer, let it thaw and enjoy!


4. Replace some recipe ingredients with healthier alternatives. I wrote in this post about using coconut oil and substituting it for vegetable oil in recipes. You can also use yogurt and applesauce as substitutes for vegetable oil. You can substitute ground seeds, such as flax or sunflower, for a small portion of the flour in some baking recipes to make it more healthy. Really look at your recipes and be creative with how to make them healthier!


5. Use a smaller plate for meals. I read an article a few years ago documenting the growth in plate size and obesity rates over the last century. We are so accustomed to using large dinner plates for our meals but when you look at dinner plates from a century ago they are much smaller. By using a smaller plate, you have less room to heap food and will in turn eat less. I remember my great-grandmother always using a smaller plate for this very reason! I started using our large soup bowls as dinner plates since they hold a little less than the standard 10″ dinner plate we have. I’ve found it helps me to not over eat at a meal and have less waste since I am able to eat all the food on my plate.


use a smaller plate to help you eat less
We try to use the dish on the right instead of the large dinner plate on the left for meals.
6. Drink a glass of water before a large meal. This is another one of those tips I heard years ago and try to do before sitting down to a large meal. By filling up some of the space in your stomach it will help you to eat less and prevent you from over filling with foods during a large holiday meal.


7. Use self-discipline. This is another one of those things that is difficult for me, especially when it comes to good food and sweet treats. Sometimes it is hard to resist taking an extra cookie, but I know it is not a healthy choice. I have been trying to make more conscious food choices and be more self-disciplined about limiting my sweet food intake.


8. Don’t over eat.  We’ve all had that overstuffed feeling that comes with eating too much, sometimes even feeling a bit ill after over indulging. Only eat as much as your body needs without over filling yourself by taking smaller portions to begin with. You can have seconds later if you still have room but by not taking too much to begin with, you prevent yourself from eating too much.


9. Set daily limits on consumption of sweets. I began doing this a few years ago and it has helped tremendously. By setting a specific number limit on how many sweets I can eat in a day, it helps me to be more self-disciplined about my food consumption. For example, with my mom’s homemade cookies I allot myself 4 per day. I will admit some days I give in to my sweet tooth and eat a little more than that but for the most part I do well with sticking to this goal! 


10. Try out a new healthy recipe. Challenge yourself to find a new healthy recipe to try out and incorporate into your family’s holiday meal. A few years ago I found myself making the same rich, heavy holiday foods I grew up eating. I decided to start incorporating some other lighter, healthier dishes into our holiday meals and it has been fun to start our own family traditions with some new healthier recipes. We still eat some of those old family favorites but I find that the meal is more balanced with some lighter, healthier foods at the table.


What are some ways you try to eat healthy during the holidays?
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  1. says

    Eat dairy free! My baby doesn’t tolerate dairy, so that’s why I don’t eat it. I decided to wait until after the holidays to add it back into my diet so I don’t eat bad food during the holidays :)

  2. says

    These are all great tips! I have to keep sweets far far away too otherwise we eat a whole pie in days! Thankfully we had guests so I didn’t eat the whole pie in days, I had some help.

    Also, I love your fiesta ware :)

    Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday! I am excited to see what you have to share this week!

  3. Anonymous says

    If you can tolerate dairy, try eating more good-quality whole dairy-fat, for example by drinking a glass of whole milk or putting real butter on your bread. Because fat digests slowly it helps you to feel fuller for longer and gives a more stable release of energy than carbohydrates – helping combat those sugar cravings!

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