Maneuver Past Holiday Meal Minefields

We’re all about integrating small but powerful steps into our lifestyle toward wellness and better health. We know many of our readers are doing just that. 

Then we run into the holiday season, when filling half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables and eating mindfully feels like sacrilege during a month traditionally organized around eating large, meaty meals and copious sugary treats while catching up with family and friends. 

Staying on track sounds daunting, but once we break it down into the same healthful routines we’re already practicing day to day it gets much easier.

Concentrate on the veggie half-plate thing
If you’re not fixing the meal yourself, request some healthy, delicious sautéed superfoods or bring a healthy dish yourself, incorporating as much color as you can to add to the festive look. Most cooks won’t mind the help.

Eat your vegetables first!
It’s easy to go straight for mom’s tragically carby stuffing or other once-a-year delights, but getting your greens first guarantees consumption of all those crucial nutrients and can go a long way toward filling you up before you dig into the heavy stuff.

Don’t skip any meals
Doing so puts your hunger on a collision course with whatever you’re presented with at dinnertime. At the least, incorporate two or three healthy snacks leading up to the holiday feast to take the edge off. 

Take time to savor
When you do devour one of those holiday treats or desserts, do it slowly, taking time to observe the taste, smell and fabulous feeling it gives you. You want to be able to recall the experience later on after the holidays are over and you’re not likely to be eating that particular confection till next year.

Eat until satisfied, not stuffed
This is a daily habit you should already be following that requires extra attention this time of year. This activity pairs well with savoring since you’re already paying attention to how your food is making you feel. Remember to ask yourself, “Does this still taste really good?” 

Put more time into socializing
If you’re eating in the same room with a decent-size group of family and friends at the holidays, it’s probably been at least a few months since you’ve had that opportunity. Take advantage of it by paying more attention to them than your food. (Same goes with online gatherings).

Drink wisely
Stick with calorie-free standbys such as water and seltzer, coffee and tea as much as you can. Just like any other time of the year, even non-alcoholic drinks can be dangerously high in sugar. Besides the damage it can do directly in excess amounts, alcohol also impairs your judgement with food choices. Alternate it with water or use mixers to dull this effect. 

Work some of it off
These holiday gatherings tend to be marathons anyway, so make sure you carve out at least a little time for a brisk walk to aid your digestion and blood sugar regulation. Get as many people involved as you can — organize a family run, hike or bike ride, or rope everyone into a vigorous video or board game! 

Don’t kick yourself, unless it’s for exercise
Almost everyone is prone to slipping up at least a little. Don’t feel guilty, and definitely don’t use it as a reason to backslide further.