5 Dietitian-Approved Healthy Holiday Habits

healthy holiday habits candy on table

Do the holidays often leave you feeling sluggish, bloated, and exhausted? You don’t need to be militant with your fitness and nutrition to escape the Christmas blahs, you just need to adopt a few healthy holiday habits!

Read on for 5 habits I work on with my 1:1 nutrition clients.

The 5 Healthy Holiday Habits

In my experience, focusing on these 5 habits can help you to feel healthier and more energetic during the holiday season without sacrificing fun and enjoyment.

Take Your Time at Meals

We are a society of speedy eaters, and holiday meals certainly aren’t exempt from this phenomenon.

But here’s the deal. It takes about 20 minutes for your belly to signal to your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Scarfing your food down any faster than that only increases the probability that you’ll eat too many calories, not to mention feeling bloated and gassy. And friend, there are more civilized ways to get your annoying relatives away from you, if you know what I mean.

Which is all to say…slow down. There are lots of ways you can do this, but two mindful eating practices I really like are setting my utensils down between bites and pacing myself to the slowest eater at the table. Aim to draw your meal out for at least 20 minutes.

And this brings me to my next point…

Eat, Dammit.

Want to know the biggest mistake I see people make before holiday meals?

It’s fasting (or drastically cutting calories) for the whole day leading up to the holiday meal.

I understand, in theory, why people do it. If you’re not to eat too many calories, why not save them up for the good stuff? Right?

NO. No no no no no no.

Sitting down to a holiday table completely ravenous is a pretty great way to inhale everything in sight. And as we discussed above, that doesn’t give your belly time to get the memo you’ve had enough. Overeating is pretty much a certainty (and given that holiday foods are often pretty calorically dense, you might end up eating more than you would have if you’d just eaten something earlier in the day!).

Make it a goal to sit down at the table hungry, but not ravenous. I recommend protein and some complex carbs (like fruit) at breakfast, and protein and veggies for lunch.

Pass on Anything You Don’t Love

I had a big epiphany about a decade ago, as I was scooping green bean casserole on my plate at our family Thanksgiving dinner: I effing hate green bean casserole.

I honestly have no idea why I ate it for so many years–probably some combo of it being a traditional holiday food, not wanting to hurt my host’s feelings, and the fact that it was just there. And once I had that lightbulb moment, I realized there were quite a few other foods that fall into the same category. None that I hated as much as green bean casserole, but definitely some that I was kind of “meh” about.

Here’s the deal. Calories at decadent holiday meals add up quickly. And the easiest, most painless way to not overeat is to skip any food you don’t love.

Trust me, you won’t miss it.

Keep it Moving

You don’t have to hit the gym every day or run a marathon during the holidays, but you absolutely should do something active at least 4-5 days per week!

Exercise can lower your stress levels and help you sleep better, making for a happier and healthier holiday. Bonus points if you can get some sunshine in the process of working out!

Keep in mind that lots of things can count as exercise, such as ice skating, powerwalking at the mall, or taking a walk after a family meal. Just get moving!

Blow Off Steam

When you think of the holidays, what’s the first word that comes to mind?

For me, at least one of the first words is busy. There are gifts to buy and wrap and extra social engagements, AND year-end is always a crazy time at work.

Here’s the thing. All that hustle and bustle isn’t good for you. Ongoing stress, in general, is linked with lots of negative health outcomes. Not to mention, it sets you up to make some poor choices over the holidays!

Say you’ve been running yourself ragged all week. You arrive at your family holiday party already stressed, and then it takes tremendous self-control to keep from snapping at your butthead uncle. What do you think happens at that party?

Let me give you a little psychology lesson.

We often think of willpower as just saying no when you want to say yes. But it’s actually so much more than that–it’s intense focus (like juggling all the things on your mental to-do list) and emotional regulation (like not going crazy on your uncle).

And here’s the thing: We only get one willpower “bank,” and any use of it spends that bank down. If you’ve depleted your account throughout the day, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to eat and drink in moderation.

(I see this so often I actually wrote an entire mini-course on it! You can find it here and ON SALE until the end of the year).

So here’s the deal:

  1. You have to set and enforce boundaries during the holidays. This might mean saying no to chairing the bake sale, or telling your uncle that your dating status is none of his business.
  2. You have to make time to unwind. Even if your busy. There’s an old Zen proverb that goes, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes everyday–unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” The point being, if you think you don’t have time to destress, then destressing should move to top priority on your to-do list.

In fact, of all the healthy holiday habits, this is the one I think people overlook the most.

A Final Word on Healthy Holiday Habits

As you look through this list of healthy holiday habits, is there any common theme you notice?

Yep–they’re all habits you should be working on pretty much all the time! Holidays or just regular days.

If there are any habits on this list that you struggle with, making it a goal to improve on them in the new year will only make your next festive season a little healthier (and simpler!).

Need a little help with that? I’d love to chat! Click here to book a free 15-minute nutrition consult.

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