We are nearing the end of October, which means we have multiple holidays coming up, all of which seem to revolve around food. It can be really hard to eat healthy during this time of year, and by eating ‘healthy’, I mean, eating real food. A lot of the ‘food’ we eat, especially during holidays is more “food-like-substances”. What do I mean by that? If you look up the word “food” in the dictionary, the first definition you’ll see will read something like this:
Food: “any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy and promote growth, etc.”
Food is nourishing. To provide nourishment means it will “supply what is necessary for life, health and growth.”
What kinds of “foods” come to mind when you’re thinking about Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas? Here are some ‘foods’ that quickly come to my mind surrounding those holidays:
Thanksgiving: turkey, white rolls, pies, potatoes, pumpkin rolls, cakes and breads
Christmas: cinnamon Rolls, sugar cookies, shortbread cookies in the metal tins, assorted cookies, candycanes, tamales (My dad was from Mexico), meat, oranges, chocolate oranges
Looking at this list, you can see why it would be hard to eat healthy, or eat real ‘food’ around the holidays. But it is very possible and I want to share some ideas with you that have helped me stay on track over the years.
- Plan Ahead. Make a menu before hand that will contain plenty of healthy food items; if you’re not the host, bring healthy food to share, I’ll often bring a big salad with nuts and grains inside, plus another side dish (like my healthy sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving) and you can even bring a healthier dessert if you’d like. You can also have the fun, traditional food items, but make sure you have some foods available that will fill and satisfy you, which will help you to not overdo it with the other items. Now this is a little trickier with Halloween because if you have children that want to trick-or-treat, even if you plan a healthy dinner and they all eat — which may prevent them from overeating candy that night — you’ll still have leftover candies for days, weeks or more. But here are some helpful ideas around Halloween, all of which we have personally used: 1) call around and find a dentist who will buy your candy. My kids dentist will weigh their candy and pay them accordingly. He then ships it overseas to troops. 2) You buy the candy from them. Give them $5 or $10, or have them exchange their bag of candy for a toy or something else they’ve been wanting and then toss the candy or bring it to work or some other function/gathering. 3)Don’t go trick-or-treating. Do another fun activity in it’s place. We talked with our kids before Halloween one year and just said, ‘is there another fun activity you’d like to do instead of trick-or-treating? You know we don’t let you keep much of the candy anyway, so if you’d rather do something else, we’re up for ideas.’ We ended up dressing up in costumes, going bowling and then out to dinner. It was a lovely evening, everyone had a ton of fun and then we didn’t have all the candy hanging around. 4) Let them each pick 5 items and then store the rest. You can bring it to an event, or save it for making Gingerbread houses. We’ve actually done this the past few years. I freeze chocolate bars in a large ziploc bag and keep them in my garage freezer, under other things so they’re not always being seen. The other candies I’ll sort through, some we toss, some we save in a ziploc and I store them way up high where they’re out of sight, and then come Christmas time, we invite friends over to make gingerbread houses, and we don’t have to buy any candies, and we have plenty to share. They do eat some while we make the gingerbread houses, and I’m okay with that, but again, plan ahead, make sure they have just eaten a good lunch or dinner before you’re planning to make the gingerbread houses, and they’ll eat a lot less; or tell them before hand they can each pick 2 to eat while working on their gingerbread house.
- Start your day off right. By this I mean that it’s much easier to eat well when you’ve gotten enough rest the night before, when you’ve exercised that morning and when you’ve eaten healthy foods leading up to this holiday feast, being sure to include foods with lots of fiber, like fruits and vegetables, as they’ll satisfy hunger and are lower in calories. When you ‘win’ those battles early on in the day, it boosts your confidence and makes you feel good and so you’re more willing to keep that going, and exercise self control.
- Drink a tall glass of water before you eat. This will help you feel a little less hungry and it will slow you down and give you time to think. Mindfulness is so important when it comes to eating, especially if you struggle with food, or if you love food the way I love food. While you’re drinking your water, look over the foods available, and decide what you’re going to start with, which healthy foods you’re going to fill your plate with and eat first, and then also choose which foods you want to idulge in, maybe there’s 5 pies and 3 other desserts, and you’re going to pick your one or two favorites, or a small sampling of a few.
- Load up on the healthy, real food items first. Fill up a plate with vegetables, salad, whole grains and eat all of that before going back for the other items.
- Have smaller dessert portions (or other indulgence-foods). Once you decide which treats you want to indulge in, either cut the serving in half, and only eat that smaller portion, or have a sampling of bite-sized pieces if you want to try several things. If a smaller plate is available, use that for your dessert as it’ll make it seem like you have more.
- Sit and enjoy your food while you’re eating it. Really take the time to eat your food slow, and enjoy each bite noticing the taste and texture. Of course visit with loved ones, but stop eating for a moment while chatting, and then continue. Don’t multi-task, don’t eat while on your phone, and don’t eat while standing. You don’t want to end up next to the buffet table, snacking, and not really paying attention to what or how much you’re eating. When you find that you’re no longer hungry, that you’re feeling content, or that you’re not really enjoying your food anymore, stop eating. Even if you have food left on your plate. And just know that when you’re hungry again, you can eat more.
- Don’t hang on to leftovers. One day of splurging is not going to make a huge difference, but when the foods are hanging around for days, it’ll start to add up. If you’re hosting the party, send leftovers with friends/family. Don’t let tempting foods sit around for a week, calling to you every day, so create a good environment for yourself where you don’t have to continually deal with that struggle. If you don’t have guests to take leftovers, or lots of kids who will probably finish it the next day (my case), you can toss it, or just don’t make as much in the first place, only make what you think your family will really eat. If my husband likes to have leftovers, I might ask him to take it to work and keep it in the fridge there. But I’ve found that my husband usually doesn’t want leftovers for more than a day, so I can just make him a plate and give away the rest, or freeze the leftover meat for another week. Same idea with Halloween candy. If you’re going to give it out, buy it the day of, if it’s hard for you to leave it alone, and then toward the end of the night, put whatever candy you have left in a bowl on your porch, and I think you’ll find that oftentimes, it’ll all get taken.
You can still enjoy your favorite occasional indulgences, but in moderation. Plan ahead and be mindful of what you eat, for holidays, and always.