There are plenty of tips for healthier holidays out there. The reality is that one day of indulgence won’t cause weight gain, but a month or more of altered lifestyle choices will. Here are five tips that have helped my clients have a healthier holiday season.
I’ve had clients admit that once Halloween candy comes out of the bag, they lose control. I often find they are eating treats quickly while standing, some saying they “feel less guilty if it’s over with” right away. I encourage them to eat while seated, keep electronics away during mealtime, and eat from a plate rather than a container. I equate success with portion control paired with mindfulness, assuring everyone it’s okay to have treats in moderation. Most report eating less and enjoying indulgences more, without guilt!
Pack Emergency Snacks
While I recommend having emergency snacks on hand all year, they’re especially important during the holidays. When shopping takes too long, having snacks on hand means the drive-through isn’t a thought. Snacks should be rich in protein and fiber — my top picks are whole-food bars, roasted chickpeas and roasted edamame. Portioning out nuts from the recipe below works, too!
Batch Cook in Advance
Cooking double saves time, stress and money on take-out. I instruct clients to make duplicate meals — whether on the stove or in the oven or slow-cooker — when they have time. Having meals in the freezer helps when life gets busy, holiday-season or not. It seems easy to eat fast food or pick up take-out while out running errands, but knowing that meals only need to be heated up has saved my clients time, money and extra pounds!
Adjust Exercise Expectations
I find it useful to help others set exercise goals for the holiday season that differ from the rest of the year. With the common all-or-nothing mentality this time of year, expectations are unrealistic — for example, exercise five times the week before Christmas — and people often throw in the towel all together. I help clients realize that making it to the gym twice during a busy week or scheduling an at-home workout is adequate. With this tactic I see many people come back after the holidays satisfied with what they’ve accomplished rather than having abandoned all healthy behaviors.
Delegate Tasks to Others
As dietitians we do more than teach clients about nutrients and foods. Much of our time focuses on stress reduction and building self-confidence, allowing for better lifestyle control. I find, especially with moms, prioritizing sanity keeps them on track. Many assume their family doesn’t want to help them, but in reality, their loved ones simply don't know how to help. My clients make lists of holiday tasks and divide them into those they must do and tasks others can accomplish. The outcomes include less anxiety and emotional eating, as well as fewer stress-related family arguments!
Ultimately, I help my clients find balance, letting them know it’s okay if they maintain rather than lose weight before the New Year, and remind them that we, as dietitians, work to stay on track, too. In case your clients are still looking for healthy versions of holiday treats to bring to a function or use as a gift, this recipe for candied nuts is perfect!
Maple Chia Roasted Pecans and Walnuts
- 1 cup raw pecans
- 1 cup raw walnut halves
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 275º F.
- Place nuts in a medium bowl.
- Add maple syrup and vanilla and stir to coat well.
- Add cinnamon and chia seeds together, again stirring well.
- Spread nuts in one layer on a non-stick cookie sheet or baking dish lined with parchment paper. Pour any excess liquid and seeds from the bowl onto the nuts.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice while baking.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before enjoying.