Healthy Holiday Eating WITHOUT Over-Thinking

by tinareale on November 27, 2012

You may or may not have noticed that holiday season has arrived. Not too long from now, the never ending parties with never ending treats will come as well. For some, this may mean the start of a vicious cycle. You may know to which one I refer. The “I’m enjoying the holidays, so I’ll have eight Christmas cookies! but then I’ll drink hot tea and eat a carrot stick for dinner to balance it out!” cycle. Okay. Maybe not that drastic. Nonetheless, I have witnessed (and, in previous years, participated myself) in this general type of thinking.

How to stop it? I believe we approach this type of behavior as a habit. It won’t take reading a quick blog post and a slap of the ole will power to suddenly free ourselves. However, with careful planning we can aim to make more balanced decisions in our every day meals. Quite frankly, we should try NOT to overthink things and aim to live with balance. Make smart decisions with our everyday meals, so the tendency to EAT ALL THE HOLIDAY COOKIES doesn’t overtake our senses.

With that in mind, I suggest aiming for the following 5 daily goals in our meals. By simply doing these things, and not overthinking the rest, I believe we can come out with more balanced decisions and a healthier overall diet during this holiday season.

healthy holiday eating

Eat fiber! Bulk up on this good stuff that will help keep your blood sugars stable and your stomach feeling full to ward off the cravings to raid the holiday office sweets mid afternoon. Aim for 25 grams per day.

Eat protein! Fat and sugars abound in holiday baking. Balance out the rest of your intake by choosing protein rich foods. Just like the fiber, protein will help you feel full longer. Be sure to choose lean options with little fat – things like beans/legumes, lean cuts of meat, low fat and low sugar yogurts, protein powder supplements, etc.

Produce with every main meal. Don’t worry about counting servings – just have some produce (fruit or vegetable) with every meal. I personally aim for this and it helps keep me on track whether the holidays or not. I will have some fruit with breakfast, then vegetables with lunch and dinner. Add some fruit to oatmeal. Make a large salad for lunch. Roast some vegetables for dinner. You can almost always find raw crudité veggies at a party to keep that goal on track.

Keep coffee and tea clean. Hot coffee and tea hold great appeal during the chilly months. They also hold great appeal to coffee shops alluring holiday shoppers in with their peppermint mochas and gingerbread lattes and other such sugary concoctions. Drink up the coffee and tea (along with 64 ounces of plain water), just aim to keep the sugar, milks, creamers, and other add-ins out. Or at least minimize as much as possible.

Think it out ahead of time. This is probably the biggest suggestion I have. In the morning, think ahead to your day. I don’t think you have to food journal every last bite or plan out your meals day to day in a fancy spreadsheet. Just aim to be aware DAILY. Take things day by day and have the goal to  make the best decisions possible for that day – choosing to enjoy things you LOVE (not just like a little, but hey it’s there) and filling in the gaps with the previous 4 tips. Be proactive!

Your Turn: Do you ever set mini-goals? What’s one you can have to stay accountable?


1 Miz November 27, 2012 at 6:27 am

FIBER and PROTEIN work wonders for me….

2 Angela @ Happy Fit Mama November 27, 2012 at 6:35 am

Fiber, protein, load up on veggies. I’ve learned that just because it’s there doesn’t mean I have to eat it. Great tips!

3 Stefanie @ Thin Vegetarian November 27, 2012 at 6:47 am

Great tips! I usually plan ahead also, makes my day so much simpler!

4 Nicki November 27, 2012 at 6:54 am

I just broke the clean coffee and tea. I only buy creamer this time of year for my coffee. I don’t drink it every day but do love the holiday flavors.

5 tinareale November 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm

But I bet you watch the portions and it’s still a lot better than what you get at a store. Planning for including it and being mindful make it an okay option if those are your preferred ways to treat yourself a bit. : )

6 Nicki November 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I do watch the portions as I know that what is a serving is not what someone would just pour into a mug. When I get a coffee drink out, I either get black coffee or plain tea or I get a “skinny” – skim milk and sugar free syrup – or I get it with soy milk in it for at least some protein.

7 Caroline November 27, 2012 at 7:17 am

Great tips! I think planning ahead and just being aware of what I’m putting in my body helps me best, and looking forward to the next healthy decision rather than thinking about past unhealthy ones : )

8 tinareale November 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Love the looking forward to next healthy decision instead of thinking about past unhealthy ones tidbit. SO TRUE!

9 Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table November 27, 2012 at 7:33 am

We are one the same brain wave today – I posted about holiday eating too. Love you tips. Something else that works for me is to walk away. I find another activity to do – even if it’s just a 5 minute chore – to help reset my mind.

10 Jen November 27, 2012 at 7:49 am

Definitely protein, fiber, and produce are on the list. I also amp up my water consumption. I allow myself treats, but don’t over indulge. Great post!

11 Linz @ Itz Linz November 27, 2012 at 7:50 am

These are GREAT goals!! I definitely need to be more mindful during this time of the year otherwise it can get out of town.. like this past weekend.

12 [email protected] Palate November 27, 2012 at 7:51 am

Fiber and protein all the way, makes sure you don’t get silly sugar cravings and can actually just enjoy the treats all in balance. I also just make healthified versions of my favourite goodies so there is no major sugar highs and subsequent lows. Also maintaining your workout schedule helps me as working out in the morning always just sets me up with a healthy mindset for the day!

13 Becky Przy November 27, 2012 at 8:11 am

Such easy and great tips! I only eat what I love and when selecting what treats to eat, I pick what i only have once a year–such as christmas cookie over ice cream. Plus, I keep consistent with my workouts. I might be away from home, but I can still sneak in an early morning walk or run at my in-laws.

14 Mary Beth November 27, 2012 at 9:25 am

I do the same Becky, focusing on the foods I don’t get the rest of the year makes it easier to say no. I know we’ll have Mac and Cheese at most family dinners but we don’t always have stuffing or gravy so I’ll eat a small portion and enjoy every bite :)

15 tinareale November 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Love these thoughts! Thanks, Becky and Mary Beth!

16 Lauren November 27, 2012 at 8:16 am

Such great tips! I always like to remember to eat before going out. Even though there are tons of great tempting treats at parties (which you should definitely taste here and there), I never want to leave on an empty stomach or else my dinner would consist of a plate of cookies and wine for most weekends in December.

17 Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries November 27, 2012 at 8:27 am

They key for me is definitely not over-thinking it all. If I start to evaluate and analyze every little bite I take, I start to make myself feel guilty and it can go in a downward spiral from there. My main goal is to find balance, and for me that’s usually the 80/20 thing. During the holidays there might be some days that are more like 60/40 or 70/30, but a couple days here and there of that won’t kill me.

18 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More November 27, 2012 at 8:28 am

Such great tips! I think it’s just always important to remember that it’s all things in moderation. We keep that mentality the rest of the year and we should be thinking about it during the Holiday season as well. We can enjoy cookies and treats, but in moderation.

19 Jen @Making Messes November 27, 2012 at 8:39 am

It’s been a while since I’ve read your blog. I recently stumbled upon it again and remembered why I read it so much. So inspiring! Thanks for writing.

20 tinareale November 28, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Aw, thanks for visiting again Jen!

21 Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots November 27, 2012 at 9:06 am

I love this and try to follow all the rules posted above!

22 Kathy November 27, 2012 at 9:06 am

Protein and lean~ clean eating…huge!

Plus, water of course. ;-)

23 misszippy November 27, 2012 at 9:28 am

Perfect way to approach it–love the simplicity. I am not a journaling/numbers kind of gal, so this is my overall approach to begin with. Even better during the holidays!

24 Katie @ KatieEnPursuit November 27, 2012 at 9:50 am

Love the “mini-goals” concept, makes it sound so manageable! For me, planning is KEY! Knowing what I’m going to do & eat makes it less out of control. I linked to your article in my post today — such great info, thanks Tina!

25 Haley @ The Saucy Apple November 27, 2012 at 9:56 am

I love to set goals, especially mini ones because they seem more doable. But I also try to remember balance, especially during the holidays. If I have a mess-up, don’t stress! It’s when we start to get to control-freak-ish that things can get out of hand. :)

26 Kammie @ Sensual Appeal November 27, 2012 at 10:34 am

Thankfully, I treat the fun flavored coffee drinks as a dessert and only have it as a dessert meal that it’s supposed to be. I grew up drinking my tea plain and black, thankfully. And I never add sugar to my coffee either, I have also been scaling back on the amount of nonfat/lowfat milk I add.. keeping it closer to black and scaling back even more so I can hopefully enjoy it totally black soon. Oh and I drink decaf. hah

27 Julia H. @ Live Young & Prosper November 27, 2012 at 10:41 am

So refreshing to see the words “without over-thinking” in the title of this post! There’s an overload of healthy holiday eating tips out there, but no one mentions that you don’t have to overthink it. Thank you!

28 Lisa November 27, 2012 at 11:20 am

I have my family Xmas party in a few weeks so until then I’m not going to drink and I’m going to limit my sugars. I know I will eat treats at the party and there’s no reason I need to beat myself up for it. But I can make good decisions until then!

29 jobo November 27, 2012 at 11:29 am

plan plan plan and choose carefully! Totally agree. Don’t outdo hard work ‘just because’ it is the holidays. I love this approach and think picking 1-2 things you REALLY want is the way to go. not 1o or 12 ;-) (keep tea and coffee clean – LOVE that one! YES!)

30 Brittany @ Itty Bits of Balance November 27, 2012 at 11:33 am

Perfect tips– Especially the greenery one. My big plates full of veggies are always a good filler!

31 GiGi Eats Celebrities November 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Smart smart list right there!! :) I always load my plate with veggies and lean protein. Thanksgiving was delicious but now it’s time to bring on the XMAS & New Years grub! :)

If you’ve never tried the combination of roasted butternut squash and turkey (or chicken) you haven’t lived! ;)

32 tinareale November 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I do a quinoa, chicken sausage, and roasted bnut squash combo for dinners with an apple chutney that I love. YOu’re right – excellent combo!

33 Cecilia November 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Produce with every meal (and snack) are key for me. It just makes me feel healthier and then produces a positive cycle of healthy eating and exercise.d

34 Ali November 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Love the tips! Going to post to FB soon!

35 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats November 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Holidays can be tricky, haha I definitely get that tendency to think: EAT ALL THE COOKIES! because I rarely have cookies or baked goods! My key to avoiding this is to not make any! that way I’m limited to whatever someone gives me!

36 tinareale November 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I try to limit the baking I do, too. For parties I will usually offer to bring a salad or healthy dip or something since there are always a plethora of desserts anyway. I know baking can be a big trigger for me so I remain mindful of that. I will do it still some (we usually make treats to give as our family’s gifts) but try to limit it as much as possible.

37 Christine @ Love, Life, Surf November 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Such great and simple tips. Fiber, protein and water are key for me and something that I’m trying to be more consistent with. I like this approach of breaking it down into mini-goals – makes it feel much more doable.

38 Amanda Perry @ Sistas of Strength November 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Great tips Tina! We can all use a little help this time of year. :)

39 [email protected] November 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm

These are really great. Holiday parties usually happen in the afternoon or evening, so I always try to fill up on super healthy breakfast and snacks when I know I will want to enjoy some less than stellar options later on. I also always include produce in all of my meals along with protein in the form of nuts, eggs or meat. Sometimes during this season we think we deserve an indulgence which is true, but like you said- ‘balance’ is always the key.

40 Ericka @ The Sweet Life November 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thanks for the tips, lady! I can read stuff like this again and again and ALWAYS find it useful. I will definitely try to remember some of these as I navigate the anxiety-ridden waters of the the holiday food scene :)

41 Kate November 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Good call on the “clean” coffee and tea – no sense adding all the extra sugar and stuff in a beverage. I always prefer to save it for the baked yumminess! Or adult beverages… ;)

42 [email protected] November 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm

GREAT post! Totally amen on the fiber, water, veggies, and protein. Even though it’s not really ‘eating,’ I also find that a great workout in the a.m. makes me more mindful of how I treat my body during the day!

43 Tamara November 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I’m all about the protein! I check in with MyFitnessPal periodically to make sure I’m on track. I find if I make my protein goal for the day, everything else falls into place!

44 Carissa November 27, 2012 at 7:22 pm

I always love your perspective! Thanks for the inspiration.

45 Pavement Runner November 27, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Great. Now I want some of those cookies. I liked what you said, but I couldnt help but think about those cookies that started the post. Are those real? Can I have two? What if I eat one now and then save the other? Please?

46 Purelymichelle November 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm

awesome tips!

I have been focusing more on the big picture, and not stressing too much about the holidays eating. haha okay easier said than done. But I notice for me when I do not stress or give it much thoughts I tend to not over eat.

47 Bek @ Crave November 28, 2012 at 12:22 am

To stop cravings I always make sure I eat enough complex carbs- I do so much exercise that my body needs it and when I don’t have enough I can tell haha.

48 Jess November 28, 2012 at 9:32 am

LOVE this. You and I share suuuuch a similar approach to food and balance and healthy eating, I just LOVE that. I just wrote about this very topic today actually, in relation to a food evolution ‘moment’ I had this weekend — finally being able to enjoy the holidays without a) stuffing myself silly only to feel awful and guilty after or b) depriving myself so much that I don’t even enjoy the day and overall? Finally enjoying the holiday for what it is: celebrating with family and friends, making memories. GREAT post.

49 tinareale November 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Yay! So glad you had a day like that. I know how freeing it is to get to “that place”. :)

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