The holidays can seem daunting when you have health and fitness goals, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are 7 tips for enjoying the holidays when you’re trying to stay healthy.

Enjoying the Holidays: The Big Picture

Here’s a little dietitian secret: The holidays really aren’t that big of a deal.

There are 40 days left until the new year. That’s 120 meals if you eat 3 times per day. Now, how many holiday meals do you have left in the year? Maybe 11, including major holidays, leftover meals, and a few random holiday parties?

Even if you go completely wild on those occasions, we’re still talking about less than 10% of your meals. Not so bad, right? Not a bit, as long as you eat well the remaining 90% of the time and practice a bit of damage control at celebratory meals.

Make a Plan for Your Normal Meals

Is it just me, or is there a Christmas cookie lurking around every corner starting around November 15th?

Spontaneity is not your friend during the holidays. Take some each time each week to plan and prepare some healthy recipes. Don’t forget snacks, especially if the office break room goodies call your name!

Need a little help with that? Our nutrition coaches can create a customized meal plan to take the guesswork out of healthy eating.

Eat 1/2 Plate of Veggies

Whether you’re enjoying a regular lunch or dinner or a celebration meal, you should start your meal with half a plate of nonstarchy veggies.

Eating nonstarchy veggies at the start of your meal ensures that you’re getting some vitamins and minerals, even if the rest of your meal isn’t so healthy. Nonstarchy veggies also help fill the belly and keep you from overeating.

But what counts as a nonstarchy veggie? Any raw, steamed, or roasted vegetable other than potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, or peas.

And what about grandma’s green bean casserole? Have a bit, if you like it, but don’t count it toward your nonstarchy veggie intake. The same goes for any veg that’s drowning in sauce, bacon grease, or cream of something soup.

Hit the Gym

Sure, exercise burns some calories, but that’s not why you should hit the gym.

Regular workouts help fend off Winter blues and holiday stress. These benefits are important in and of themselves, but they can also lower the odds of emotional eating in people who are prone to it. In this way, exercise can minimize weight gain during the holidays (1).

Not to mention, you never have to get back on the wagon if you don’t fall off in the first place! In my experience, people who ghost the gym during the holidays find it much more difficult to get back to a routine after the new year.

Need some help staying accountable? Book a free goal-setting session and let us help you!

Try the Two-Bite Rule

Do you remember the law of diminishing returns? Economics isn’t my thing, but the gist is that the more you have of something the valuable it is. This can definitely be the case with food.

Generally speaking, we get the most sensory enjoyment from the first couple of bites of any food. We can use this to our advantage with highly palatable foods like cookies and pie.

Next time you have a really decadent food, take your time and savor the first 2 bites, then set your plate aside. Wait 20 minutes and see if you’re satisfied. If not, have 2 more bites! However, you might be surprised to find that you don’t need the second round.

Practice Hara Hachi Bu

Hara hachi wha?

Hara hachi bu is a Confucian principle that suggests we stop eating when we are 80% full. And guess what: It could save you up to 600 calories on turkey day, considering the average American eats 3000 calories during Thanksgiving dinner (not counting drinks, appetizers, or dessert).

Remember, satisfied, not stuffed. Stuffed is for the turkey.

Drinking and Enjoying the Holidays

Do your holiday plans involve a few cocktails? Me too! Just try to keep them to a minimum.

flow chart of alcohol and weight loss

Each holiday libation has an upfront cost, ranging from 60 calories to hundreds of calories. And that’s not including collateral damage.

Alcohol crosses over the blood-brain barrier and affects every part of the brain, including parts critical for decision making and impulse control. This makes a second (and a third) round sound more appealing, as well as the Taco Bell drive thru at 4 a.m.

As if that’s not reason enough to drink in moderation, nothing kills gym motivation like a hangover. For these reasons (and more importantly, for optimal health), it’s best to cap your intake at 1-2 drinks per night.

What should you drink instead? Water, friend. At least 80 ounces per day.

Take Time to Rest

Sleep habits can fall by the wayside in the last weeks of the year, but it’s so important for health.

Adequate sleep ensures you have the energy to balance holiday, work, and family commitments. It is also super important for keeping stress at bay, and for exercise performance and stress management.

Aim for 7 hours per night, at a minimum. Feel free to skip a morning workout here and there if you’re down on sleep. Doing so can actually help your performance in the long run.

Try out one or all of these tips if you want to stay on track with your health and fitness goals while enjoying the holidays! And please, share your best tips in the comments.