Friday, December 9, 2011

Top tips for navigating holiday food

I wrote a post last year about planning for food and the holidays and I wanted to re-visit the issue for this year.  It is almost impossible to expect that we will be able to bypass every single treat and not-so-nutritious food out there for the holidays.  But there are some things you can do to make it a little more successful - so you don't have to make such a huge New Year's Resolution to lose weight, or get back on your food plan, or whatever the goal.  And so you can simply feel good and more peaceful over the holiday season.    My holidays are so much more happy now that I don't overeat or eat sugary, fat-laden treats.  It took me a long time to get to that point, but it was worth the hard work!  Here are my top tips for navigating holiday food...

1.  Have a plan for what and when you will eat.  Without a plan it is impossible to navigate the food.  For example, eat a healthy meal before you go to a Christmas party or somewhere where there will be lots of treats.  Or instead of buying Christmas candy for stockings and having it around the house where you will graze on it all day, buy trinkets.  Or if you can't stand the thought of not having candy in the stockings, buy it at the last moment so it's not sitting around.  Another example (that I used in my last year's post) was to find other yummy crunchy treats, such as nuts, to put in bowls around the house rather than candy.  Now, of course you can overeat on those too.  But I can stop eating those much easier - yet get my crunchy fix!   

One of the most helpful things I did when I was trying to kick the sugar habit was to make a rule for myself that I had to eat my sugar at the end of a meal.  No eating it as a snack or snacking on it between meals.  You wouldn't believe the difference it made.  I didn't feel deprived because I knew I would be getting my fix.  But I had to eat it as a dessert after a meal.  After a while I ate less and less sweets, and eventually the treats just faded away because I stopped craving them.

2. Find some new recipes for tasty, healthy treats so there are things you can enjoy without the guilt.  Finding new recipes is super helpful in the quest to substitute old habits for new.  And there are lots of healthy treats you can make that taste good too and that use natural sweeteners. 

3. Don't beat yourself up if you do eat a few treats.  Just move on to the next meal and make a better choice next time.  This may take some least it did for me.  I was an "all or nothing" person.  So I had to learn how to be gentle and accepting of myself when I ate something that I hadn't planned to eat or when I ate more than I had planned.  I had to erase the thinking that if I "messed up" at one meal, then I might as well mess up for all 3 meals.  The minute you eat something outside of your plan, just renew your efforts for the next meal.

4. Try to center your activities around things rather than food.  There are so many fun things to do over the Christmas season, that it is entirely possible to center your traditions around everything but food.  We do.  Of course we have a few things that the children love that they look forward to eating.  But for the most part the fun comes from things like the nativity set that the kids play with all season long, decorating the tree, the advent calendar with little trinkets to look forward to everyday, the music, the lights, and, last but not least - the real reason for the season.  There are soooo many things to fill your season with fun without the food.

Meals plans to help the holidays go smoothly

I really enjoyed this post from the Simple Mom blog.  It talks about planning meals for the holidays in order to lessen the stress of the season.  I have been inspired.  So I am going to have a planning session this weekend and follow her suggestions.  I hope it inspires you too!