Ah, holiday meals! Maybe you look forward to them all year long, but if you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet, the foods we typically associate with this season can feel like one delicious detour after another. From cookie swaps to cocktail parties, family dinners to festive happy hours, gingerbread houses to gingerbread lattes, a lot of holiday traditions seem to come with a side of empty calories.
So how do we keep our spirits bright without making our clothes too tight? There are many different approaches to healthy holiday eating, but no matter which one you choose to follow, it’s a good idea to start with a plan. We’re here to share some ideas that may help you keep your health goals intact without having to say “Bah, humbug!” to all the fun.
Holiday Meal Planning
If you’re someone who creates meal plans and does weekly food prep already, you already know how much it can not only simplify your busy life, but also help you stay on track nutritionally. Even if you’re a veteran meal planner, though, it may be a little different this time of year simply because there’s a lot more to work around.
It’s important to be realistic when planning meals during the holidays, and no matter what diet you follow or how packed your schedule is, these tips may help keep you on track:
• Check your calendar.
How many nights will you actually be home? How many holiday work lunches do you/your partner plan to attend? Are you hosting any events in your home? If you have kids, what events do they have scheduled that may affect meal planning?
• Fine-tune your grocery list.
Make sure you’re stocked up not only on all the ingredients specific to the season, but also on staples for quick, healthy meals and snacks. Think fresh fruit and veggies, pre-washed salad greens, quick-cooking rice, canned tomatoes, canned beans, broth/stock, chicken breasts…whatever your go-tos are.
• Get creative to avoid food waste.
Pay attention to the ingredients you’re buying for holiday recipes…not just flour, sugar, butter, and sprinkles (which may seem like an entire food group this time of year…but they’re not), but also things like turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, etc. If you’re hosting any parties or cooking for any family gatherings, think about what you may have left over and how it could potentially be incorporated into healthier “leftover recipes” for your regular menu.
• Keep it simple with kitchen gadgets.
If you have a slow cooker or programmable pressure cooker, now is a great time to put it to work! This is a season of joy, but it’s also a season of last-minute invitations, long lines, slow traffic, and any number of other unforeseen circumstances. Knowing that a healthy meal will be waiting whenever you may get home to eat it is a great feeling. Check out these healthy slow cooker recipes and these healthy pressure cooker recipes!
Healthy eating pitfalls (and how to navigate them like a ninja)
No matter how organized you are, the holiday season inevitably brings increased opportunity to fall off the healthy eating wagon. Things that could hijack your routine may include (but are certainly not limited to):
• Shopping expeditions
Even with the rise of online shopping, many of us will end up at the mall in search of perfect gifts for everyone on our Christmas lists. Shop ‘til you drop and all that, but try to steer clear of the food court. If you do need to eat on the go, look for the healthiest options available and remember that those giant slices of greasy pizza smell better than they taste anyway.
• Holiday movie nights
Going to the movie theater is a holiday tradition for a lot of families, and while checking out the new releases and maybe rocking some stylish 3-D glasses won’t hurt your diet, the concession stand can be problematic. If going to the movies just isn’t the same without a treat, we get it…but maybe go for a small popcorn, easy on the butter, and skip the Reese’s Pieces and gigantic cherry Icee. Or sneak in a little something healthy to nibble on. We won’t tell!
• Traffic jams
Brightly twinkling lights are everywhere this time of year, but when they’re a long line of tail lights in front of you, they hardly make you feel warm and fuzzy. When you’re stuck in traffic, it’s easy to end up arriving home with low blood sugar and an empty stomach, which means you may be more likely to eat the first thing you see (and it’s probably cookies). Keep healthy snacks in your car, and make sure the giant tin of flavored popcorn you bought for your aunt is safely stowed in the trunk.
• Work events
Celebrating the season with your colleagues is wonderful, but sometimes the lunches, happy hours, and holiday parties can start to pile up. If you know the venue in advance, try to take a peek at the menu beforehand so you can walk in the door with at least a rough idea of what you might eat and drink that will best align with your health goals. It’s worth reminding yourself, too, that you don’t have to attend every single event. You may enjoy participating even more when you don’t overcrowd your schedule!
• School plays
You wouldn’t miss your kid’s recorder solo for the world—but that sugar cookie-and-Hawaiian-Punch reception in the lobby afterwards doesn’t count as dinner. Depending on the timing, try to eat at home beforehand, or make plans to go out after the show to a restaurant with healthy options. Or there’s always that trusty slow cooker.
If you only take one thing away from this blog post, we hope it’s this: making healthy choices shouldn’t mean not enjoying the holidays. If that’s what’s happening, we encourage you to make some adjustments to your approach!
It’s not so much about eliminating indulgences as indulging more mindfully. If you love sipping a peppermint mocha while you grocery shop, maybe get the smallest size and skip the whipped cream. If a traditional Christmas dinner is important to you, that’s what you should serve…but maybe try some cleaned-up versions of your favorite recipes (you may not even notice much difference)!
At Our Life Covered℠, our goal is to help you find balance in as many areas of life as possible, including the process of shopping for life insurance. We know helping to better protect your family is a top priority for you, but we also know you have a lot going on…and not just during the holiday season. That’s why our site is designed to help busy women learn more about life insurance, get a no-obligation quote, and complete the application process as quickly and easily as possible. It’s our gift to you, all year round!
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