The holiday season is upon us, and hopefully, you're already feeling the cheer. If you haven't done so already, you're probably planning on a few cozy holiday movie nights, attending a party or two, and spending some much-needed time with friends and loved ones. Whatever your plans may be, chances are you'll also be enjoying some of your favorite festive desserts, dishes, coffees, and cocktails. While these foods and drinks can help make the winter season extra special, they can also add anxiety if you're trying to meet specific health goals, achieving or maintaining a lean body through the holidays.
We wanted to find out how you can still indulge this holiday while staying on track with your weight loss goals. Read on to learn some helpful tips from our expert dietitians—and for more healthy eating tips that may come in handy this winter, check out 6 Eating Habits To Prepare Your Body for the 'Tridemic.'
Follow the 80/20 Rule
We wouldn't dare tell someone to skip their favorite holiday treats or avoid their favorite festive dishes amid the holiday season. Not only is this not realistic, it also just isn't fun. Instead, you can try something like the 80/20 rule.
"The 80/20 rule means that 80% of the time you focus on sticking to your healthy eating pattern of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fat," explains Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Expert Medical Board. "Then, 20% of the time you allow for those higher-calorie, 'splurge-type' foods, like baked goods, creamy appetizers, and all your favorite holiday beverages."
The 80/20 rule is just one method for allowing yourself to indulge, while also being mindful of how much you're indulging. This is key for a healthy mindset around the holidays.
"The important message is to choose a treat you love and savor it," says Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our medical expert advisory board. "For example, if you are at a holiday dessert buffet, do a lap around to check out the selections and pick a reasonable portion of the one dessert you enjoy most."
Power every meal with protein
Because of all the sugary desserts, festive breads, and delicious holiday drinks, this time of year can be very carbohydrate-heavy. This is why Goodson recommends focusing on protein when you can.
"Protein is essential for helping you feel full faster and stay full longer," says Goodson. "So, at breakfast, add eggs, lean breakfast meat, or Greek yogurt to your oatmeal. Have a lean piece of beef, fish or poultry at meals. And make protein convenient at snack time by stocking your desk drawer and computer bag with protein-rich foods like beef jerky, energy bars, and nuts."
"Water doesn't make you lean," says Goodson. "However, fluid helps you feel more full, which can help with managing portion sizes at meals."
"So often we think we are hungry, when we really are just thirsty," says Young. "For staying hydrated during the holidays, I recommend water, seltzer, fruits and veggies with high water content, and limiting your intake of soda and alcohol, which will just dehydrate you even more."
The holidays are arguably the busiest time of the year. With all of the shopping, necessary errands, cooking, cleaning, and socializing, it's likely that you find yourself running around throughout the day. In order to stick to some healthy eating patterns during this busy season, it may be helpful to have some snacks prepared ahead of time.
"To avoid making the wrong choices when you get to a holiday event, pack a healthy snack before you head out for the afternoon," says Young. "A piece of fruit and string cheese, avocado on whole grain crackers, a yogurt with an apple, or a single-serving of nuts make great choices to keep your hunger at bay."
Find movement you enjoy
While not technically an eating or drinking-related habit, another important practice to adopt around the holidays is making sure you set aside some time to participate in the types of movement you enjoy.
"The reality is we will all eat a little more during this season, and that's ok—but the key is to keep yourself burning calories, as well. Not only will it keep you more fit over the holidays, you will likely have more energy and feel better as well," says Goodson.
"The trick is to do what you love!" Young advises. "Center yourself with a yoga class to help you be more mindful or go for a morning run, which doesn't take too much time out of your day."