With the holidays fast approaching, a common question I get from my clients is how to maintain their wellness habits during this time of year that typically involves social gatherings with an abundance of pleasure foods (i.e. food that tastes yummy but is devoid of nutritional value).
Personally, I practice being flexible with my dietary choices and workout routines during this period. However, I still put a few things in place to help me feel my best (instead of bloated and mentally drained 😅).
Here are my top tips to help you feel your best while still enjoying the festivities.
Create a good enough plan
The Good Enough Plan is your modified wellness plan for times you are outside of your regular routine (ex. holidays, travels, road trip, etc).
Choose 2-3 habits that you currently practice and that would be easy to continue during the holidays. If you need to slightly modify them, that’s ok too!
Ex. Drink 2L of water per day, continue having usual balance meals at breakfast and lunch if eating out for supper, and meditate at least 10 mins a day (instead of your usual 20 mins).
Having a Good Enough Plan helps take off some pressure from needing to follow your usual routine. Also, when you consciously decide to modify your plan, this helps you feel you’re still “on track” instead of “failing at keeping up”.
Instead of avoiding certain foods, focus on adding nutrients and blood sugar balance
While I do suggest a diet that’s low in processed foods, putting most of your efforts into avoiding certain foods can be very stressful and induce anxiety.
Instead, I suggest you focus on ensuring you have nutrient-rich options throughout the day.
If you’re having meals at someone’s house, bring a vegetable side dish to share (more on this below).
If you’re having supper at a restaurant, choose whole-food breakfast and lunch options at home and include some fruits or vegetables into your snacks.
This way, if you have slightly more indulgences or refined foods at one meal, at least you know you also gave your body plenty of nutrients at your other meals.
To add to this strategy, you can also aim to balance your blood sugar level as much as possible when having pleasure foods. For example, if you’re having sweets after dinner, make sure you include at least a palm size portion of animal protein or 20g of plant-based protein in your main meal to help reduce the rise in blood sugar levels caused by the sugar in your dessert.
Bring the veggies
If you’re eating at someone’s house and you know there are typically few vegetables served, offer to bring a great big salad you love, roasted veggies, or even a dish of crudités.
I’ve been doing this for so long, all my friends and family just automatically assume I’ll bring the veggies. 😉
Aim to have 1/3 of your meal in vegetables to get your fiber intake and keep your gut happy (constipation is something I hear my clients tell me about during the holidays or while traveling!)
Another trick is what I call “pre-eating”. Eat a small bowl of vegetables (could be as simple as cucumbers and cherry tomatoes) before leaving for the restaurant or your dinner.
Learn to say no
One of the most common challenges my clients have about eating at someone’s house is saying no to extra servings the host offers when they’re already full. They’re scared of hurting their feelings if they refuse.
While it may feel uncomfortable to say no, the discomfort of feeling too full is usually worst (not to mention the acid reflux, food coma, and difficulty sleeping after)!
Practice saying “No thank you, it was absolutely delicious! I’m very satisfied with the portion I had.”
I’ve found that when we show gratitude towards the cook while also saying no, it’s received well.
Choose what you want the most
If there’s a selection of mini-bites, appetizers, or desserts, consider choosing which ones you want the most.
While it’s tempting to want to try everything, ask yourself which ones are your favorite and which ones you’re okay with skipping.
It’s not about restriction and getting nothing. It’s about choosing what’s worth it to you.
Also, to help you avoid overeating on mini-bites before the main course arrives, place all your favorite ones on a plate to help you see how much you’re intaking.
When you graze directly from the serving dish, it’s hard to evaluate how much you’ve eaten and you can get full quickly.
Relax and enjoy the moment!
And lastly, enjoy the moment with your loved ones and be kind to yourself!
If you have a tendency to feel anxious/guilty about certain food choices, remind yourself that 1) there is no such a thing as “bad” foods, 2) you haven’t ruined all your past efforts or “fallen off the wagon”, and 3) all the efforts you make (big and small) count and move you towards.
Remember, Progress over Perfection.
So give yourself the gift of compassion. ❤
To help you put these tips into practice, I recommend you choose 1 to 2 strategies from above (begin with the easiest ones for you) that you’d like to implement at your next holiday party.
On that note, wishing you a wonderful holiday season!