Erin Lopynski, RD, is a registered dietitian at Inova Well.

Chocolate, cookies, cocktails, endless appetizers — it can feel like the holiday season was designed to derail your healthy eating habits. But holiday festivities don’t have to lead to holiday weight gain. These tricks can help you enjoy the treats of the season without going overboard.

1. Indulge (a little). Holidays are a lot more fun if we include our favorite treats. Plus, completely avoiding your favorite comfort foods can backfire. If you allow yourself a serving of special foods every once in a while, you’ll be less likely to crave them constantly — and also less likely to binge when you do take a bite.

2. Watch portions. Moderation is key, even during the holidays. There are ways to limit temptations while still enjoying the treats of the season. If you like to bake, bring your favorite treats to work for everyone to share. Try to save a cookie for after a meal, instead of grabbing one every time you cruise past the cookie tin.

3. Slow your roll. When holiday feasts and buffets arrive, approach them mindfully! Your olfactory system enhances your ability to taste. Slow, mindful eating uses all of your senses to explore, savor and taste. This approach will promote controlled consumption and lower the odds of overindulging.

4. Avoid stress eating. Remember that emotional eating is just an impulse moment. Before you eat, drink some water and wait 10 minutes before deciding if you are physically or emotionally hungry. Make a list of things to do instead of snacking. When you start to feel overwhelmed with emotions, take out your list and enjoy another activity.

5. Take care with cocktails. For many, it wouldn’t be the holidays without eggnog, white Russians or hot buttered rum (just to name a few). But alcohol adds a hefty dose of calories, especially if it’s mixed with sweeteners or cream. The most health-conscious choices are bubbly or dry wine, or an ounce or two of distilled spirits with zero-calorie mixers. Whatever you choose, sip slowly at holiday parties, enjoying 1 or 2 glasses.

6. Make a plan. Before the holidays hit, think about what foods and drinks are must-haves on your holiday diet, and which you don’t mind skipping. Write out your game plan ahead of events so you won’t be left trying to resist one temptation after another. Better yet, recruit a friend or family member as an accountability partner, and help each other stay on track.

7. Eat the rainbow. Holidays are full of color. Food should be colorful too! Colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Plus, they are low in calories and high in fiber and water to keep you full (but not too full for your pre-planned must-haves).

8. Prepare for parties. Eat small, healthy meals before a holiday party so you don’t go overboard at the buffet table. If you bring a dish to share, make it something healthy. Grab a small plate and fill it with the healthiest options rather than hitting up the dessert table right off the bat. Once your plate is finished, focus on socializing away from the food.

9. Stay active. Holidays can be stressful. Physical activity is a great way to relieve stress while also burning calories. Aim for 150 minutes per week. That doesn’t mean slogging away on the treadmill if that’s not your thing. Find ways to have fun while being active. A winter hike or sledding party with your family can help you stay healthy while making fun holiday memories.

The holidays are about feeling good, not guilty. By planning ahead you can enjoy the season’s treats in moderation and still go home feeling merry. 

To hear Erin discuss healthy holiday eating, check out our Facebook Live conversation from December 5.


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