Family gatherings, traveling, hosting, busy party schedules and, of course, food are the hallmarks of the holiday season. From Pistachio-Citrus Rugelach at a party to the experimental Grilled Turkey at the big meal, the food is a highlight just as much (or more than?) as the gifts and vacation time. While health isn’t always top of mind, here are some ways to maintain your feel-good goals through to year’s end while still enjoying that special day.
1. Snack First, Party After
Don’t arrive hungry or you may overdo it at the buffet table. Eat a light snack before you head out the door, and you won’t arrive starving. Higher-protein foods, such as (lightly salted) nuts, an easy yogurt dip or a nut-based dip with raw veggies, a hard-cooked egg, or a few slices of deli meat can take the edge off a hungry, post-work stomach and still leave room for select party treats.
2. Be Picky About Splurge-Worthy Foods
Speaking of party treats, be picky about what you eat. (This can also apply to a big holiday meal, too. It’s okay to eat what you really crave and pass on dishes you don’t love as much.) Calories add up quickly: An ounce of cheese, an ounce of whole-grain crackers and one deviled egg (2 halves) contain about 350 calories and nearly a third of your day’s sodium needs. Choose your holiday splurges wisely. If you’ve been dreaming of oozy brie, enjoy it. If you’re just filling your plate, forego it and start with a heap of low-calorie raw vegetables (alongside a little dip) or fruit on a small plate plus a few special dishes: shrimp cocktail, a schmear of your co-worker’s famous cheeseball, or that chocolate fondue you love. Enjoy a little bit of what you really want, and don’t spend calories on foods you don’t relish.
3. Bite-Size is Fun-Size
Smaller portions mean fewer calories consumed. Choose a bite of a food to give you that flavor or texture you crave and then you can move on to something else. (Besides, some foods—such as stuffed olives, smoked ham or smoked salmon or brie—have big flavor, so a little taste may be all you need.)
4. Get Your Party on (and Put That Plate Down)
Once you’ve fixed your (small) plate of food, go mingle, chat and enjoy the party or family time! Moving away from the food spread might help curb calories with the old “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
5. Plan for Non-Food Fun
The food is fun—we plan for it, grocery shop, cook and then think of creative ways to handle leftovers from the big meal. But it’s also smart to organize some non-food activities: Play board games after lunch, play tag, take a walk through your neighborhood and collect colorful leaves, or plan a scavenger hunt for holiday decorations in your house or neighborhood.
6. Share the Leftover Love
If you’re hosting a meal or party, have plenty of zip-top plastic bags and portable to-go containers so you can portion out leftovers to your guests. That will help you share the holiday spirit while keeping you from noshing on leftover stuffing or pumpkin cheesecake as you watch holiday movie re-runs all weekend.
From a servings planner to online ordering of ready-made holiday favorites, check out these helpful holiday ideas to make the season easier (so you can stay on your exercise schedule and party schedule).