If visions of sugar plums aren’t dancing in your head yet, just wait. While gatherings may be smaller, gift exchanges virtual and shopping lines shorter, many look forward to the merriment of the season and all the joys it brings.
And where there’s a winter holiday, there’s a rumbling tummy waiting to be filled. From gingerbread cookies and eggnog to challah and the Feast of the Seven Fishes, it’s safe to say that the season’s festivities wouldn’t feel complete without the accompanying meals we’ve come to know and love. My sister’s vegetarian Timpano is legendary, an end-of-year indulgence of which I am not worthy.
Healthy eating around the holidays can be a challenge. With many oven aromas and familiar flavors competing for our attention, our calorie-counting, carb-fasting, just-one-more-bite selves may not be able to resist. As you satisfy your sweet or savory tooth this month, keep the following tips in mind:
Allow Yourself a Treat Here and There
’Tis the season for hot cocoa and candy canes and all the other confections that patiently wait for their time to shine. Like a one-day-only sale, December’s offerings don’t stick around for long.
It’s OK to reserve some space for homemade shortbread cookies or fudge. It’s OK to lick the spatula and wipe the frosting bowl clean as you whip up a batch of cookies with your kids. No one says you should approach the weeks ahead like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but resisting every edible temptation that comes your way isn’t realistic either. The longer you deny your cravings, the more likely you are to give way to a regrettable binge later.
We’ve all heard the phrase “everything in moderation, including moderation.” If you’re worried about overeating, make smaller batches. If you have an insatiable appetite for glazed pecans, practice portion control by planning ahead. Limit yourself to a handful—or whatever your healthy sweet spot is—and switch to a more wholesome alternative. You can set similar limitations with any snacks, appetizers, sides or desserts.
Share your plan with a family member or friend you’ll be dining with so that you can have an accountability buddy. You might encourage them to join you!
As you consume, be mindful of your body’s cues that let you know when you’re hungry and full. Research suggests that it can take up to 20 minutes from your first bite before you feel satiated. When you find yourself reaching for a second or third serving, pause to check in with your body. Ask yourself if you’re truly hungry or if you’re simply filling your plate because food is still on the table.
Keep Your Cooking Simple
As you pore over ingredient lists and serving sizes, cookbooks and culinary tools, remember that your holiday cooking doesn’t need to be complicated. Opt for two or three side dishes instead of five or six. If you don’t usually play holiday host, use this time to try some new recipes to balance out pizza nights and guilty pleasures.
I hope that these tips help you feel more confident as you feast on seasonal favorites in the weeks ahead.