6 steps to healthy eating in the festive season

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Worried about the effect that over-indulgence at Christmas parties, Christmas dinner and New Year’s Eve parties will have on your health? Wondering how you can eat sensibly over the holidays? Yes, it IS possible to eat healthily and guilt-free over the Christmas season. Read my 6 steps to success!

1. Dealing with social pressure:

If someone is pushing you to indulge in - a mince pie, for example, - then you can:

  • Make an excuse: 

    • “Sorry but I had a big lunch and I couldn’t manage another bite.”

    • “I don’t eat sugar / wheat / carbs.”

    • “I’m so full I don’t have room for dessert.”

    • “I’ll have some later.”

  • Pass it to someone else, there’s usually a willing volunteer!

  • Eat a bite then leave the rest.

If you’re worried about what people will think of you not indulging like everyone else, then take a look around: is anyone actually watching what you eat or is it in your imagination? And ask yourself: do you really care what other people think about what you eat?

If you feel someone may be upset if you refuse (perhaps they have slaved over making a special dish), ask for a small portion and only eat it all if you want to.

2. Dealing with temptation:

You may feel that you just can’t resist something, particularly a favourite food. Alternatively you may justify making an unhealthy food choice: “I’ve been so good about sticking to my way of eating so I deserve a treat.”

  • Is the food really that tempting? Often the reality falls short of your imagination or your memory of how good it is.

  • If it’s one of your favourite foods then you may decide to have some. Just make sure you’re choosing to eat it and that you aren’t falling victim to a craving or emotional eating (or social pressure as mentioned above). If you’re not sure then maybe you can postpone it: wait ten minutes and see whether you still want it.

  • If you’re having trouble resisting temptation then visualise one of your goals or motivations. Decide whether eating the food is worth it taking longer to reach your goal. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t but only you can decide.

Eat mindfully: if you do decide to eat a food that isn’t ideal be sure to ask yourself:

  • How does it make you feel: are you really enjoying it; is it living up to your expectations? If not, stop now!

  • Do you need to eat it all or was just a taste enough to satisfy you?

3. Reducing temptation:

  • Avoid being over-hungry before the event which will mean you are more likely to eat “off plan”. You could:

    • Have a big meal before you go.

    • Take snacks with you to eat before you go in.

  • Let your host know about your food preferences

    • Many people have food preferences and allergies and your host may be able to accommodate you.

    • Similarly hotels and restaurants may be happy to discuss your food choices if you call ahead.

  • Decide what to eat in advance before you are faced with temptation

    • If the menu is available online then you can decide what you’re going to eat before you get there (often you have to do this for Christmas menus at restaurants anyway). That way you’ll be less likely to be tempted by an unhealthy food choice.

    • Ask to make changes such as swapping out fries/chips/potatoes for a side salad or vegetables.

    • At a buffet, scan the table to see what’s available before you choose what to eat.

  • Keep something that fits in with your way of eating on your plate or in your glass. It’s only when you’re empty-handed that people feel the need to give you food and/or drink.

4. Be careful with alcohol:

  • Not only is alcohol empty calories, after a couple of drinks you may be more likely to make unhealthy food choices.

5. Make compromises

Rather than try to stick rigidly to your healthy way of eating, consider compromising:

  • Decide to eat a healthy main meal but choose your favourite dessert.

  • Choose something you wouldn’t usually eat, but only have a small portion.

  • Make the best food choices that you can and don’t stress about it.

6. After the parties are over:

It is really important to go back to your usual, healthy, way of eating as soon as possible. It is really easy to fall into the trap of getting used to having daily treats and then when the mince pies have run out, buying more treats!

Have a plan for getting back on track. Maybe you’ll cook your favourite healthy meals the next day, or you’ll have extra snacks available in case you have cravings.

Above all, don’t feel guilty about your actions: there will always be times when you don’t follow the healthiest way of eating. Remember that it is not how you eat over Christmas and New Year that will dictate your overall health, but how you eat from New Year to next Christmas!