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Enjoy The Holidays: Eat Well, Eat Smart

Do you think of the holidays as a food free-for-all time? Is it possible to enjoy, yet survive, holiday eating? Can you maintain your commitment to optimal health through the holidays?

YES! With a little forethought and awareness, you can eat well, eat smart, and enjoy the holidays. These sensible tips are my (early) holiday gift to you.

Remember the basics:

  • Eat 5 small meals per day. This approach to food is recommended to maintain efficient metabolism and minimize hunger, allowing for healthful food decision making. You know what happens when you become ravenous—you will eat any and all food put in front of you!
  • Choose from the plant foods. The carbohydrates from whole grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruit are filling. They will take up room in your stomach, perhaps diminishing the chances of choosing high fat or processed foods. Not to mention the many physical health benefits of eating plant foods, such as antioxidant, fiber, mineral, and vitamin properties.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water can be filling, which may diminish hunger and allow for healthful food decision making. You can dilute juice drinks with water, to lower the amount of sugar and calories you take in. If you are partying, I recommend alternating water with alcoholic beverages to prevent overdoing the alcohol as well as to decrease the amount of simple carbohydrate and calorie taken in (and minimize the morning after headache…).

And HERE they are, Holiday Survival Skills:

  • Nibble on a healthy fat, 10 minutes prior to sitting down to a meal or leaving for a party–this will activate the brain’s satiation hormone. Examples are 1 ounce of nuts, ¼ avocado, a half-container of yogurt, or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter; the richness of the fat, as well as the time it takes to digest, will displace the feeling of hunger and allow for healthful food choices later.
  • Plan ahead to balance your food intake for the day. If you are going to a party in the evening, choose well for your two earlier small meals and small in-between-meal snacks. If you have had an indulgent family holiday breakfast, eat lean and light for the remainder of the day.
  • State a positive affirmation prior to arriving at the party or family dinner. Consider “I will honor my commitment to my health and eat mindfully and healthfully” or ”I intend to enjoy small tastes of my favorite foods”. Positive affirmations are very powerful and will influence the outcome of your choices.
  • Arrive with a success strategy, which will allow you the permission to splurge, but to do so with intention and awareness. Know ahead that you will likely be enticed to eat rich foods: casseroles, cheeses and meats, dips, cocktails and wine, and tantalizing desserts, to name a few. Repeat your positive affirmation statement! Eat with confidence!
  • There is no need to deprive yourself! You might however, cruise the buffet table before taking a plate, and decide what will go on your plate–enhance the opportunity for choosing wisely. Use a small plate, and take small tastes of several well-chosen foods.
  • Select what you eat wisely. Combine protein and carbohydrates, such as veggies, bean salad, grain casserole, cheese, smoked fish, and chicken skewers from the buffet table. Eat these foods prior to considering desserts.
  • Bring a healthy dish to share–you know you’ll have at least one healthful dish to choose from!
  • Egg nog and punch or any beverage with alcohol, when consumed sensibly, are perfectly reasonable holiday choices. If you have 2 generous portions of egg nog however, you might consider modifying the food choices you make later in the evening, or better yet, have a couple of small sips of egg nog, eat well at the party, and enjoy a glass of red wine with your meal!
  • Move away from the buffet table. This will minimize the temptation to keep nibbling. Keep in mind this formula: standing + talking + laughing + nibbling = overeating.
  • Sit down to eat. Eat slowly. Savor each bite.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes before selecting dessert. This strategy will allow time for your brain to catch up with your stomach. You might get lucky and realize that you are not hungry for dessert! If you do have dessert, take a small piece(s) of whatever you choose, and eat it slowly, savoring the flavor.
  • Be prepared with a cheerful retort or two when the hostess or your mother tries to give you seconds: “What a fabulous meal, I am so satisfied”… or “Thank you, I am taking a break to make more room”…
  • Brush your teeth! After you have eaten slowly, and have enjoyed each bite on your small plate, excuse yourself to the bathroom. You will change the flora of your mouth and feel less inclined to eat more food. This works!
  • If it is in your house, it will end up in your mouth! Do yourself a favor and leave the goodies to be enjoyed at the party, restaurant, or someone else’s house.
  • Cultivate a mindful practice to balance holiday activity and stress. Find alternative self-soothing techniques such as intentional relaxation or regular physical activity.
Robin Mallery

Robin Mallery

Robin Mallery is passionate about food! Starting from where and how it's grown, to how far that food travels to the dinner table, to how it is prepared and savored...Robin blends shopping, cooking, and eating tips with her unique Kitchen Zen and mindful meals approach to enjoying real food.

While you are waiting for her to finish the upcoming book, "Kitchen Zen: The Journey to Nourish Body and Soul in Our Changing World", you can find Robin's sporadic blog posts here or on FaceBook.
Robin Mallery

3 Responses to “Enjoy The Holidays: Eat Well, Eat Smart”

  • shivaji Mane:

    So Many Thanks For Sending me such Very Helpfull, Well and Wise studid points / techniques,after longtime because I am waiting Very eagerly.for more information Thank You Again.

  • I am pleased that you found the article to be helpful and I appreciate your visit to my website. Stay tuned for more!

  • Judy:

    What a great article. So many helpful tips and hints. I will be sure to follow them come holiday. Looking forward to reading more.

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"When my husband of 34 years died I lost my interest in cooking.  Instead I began relying on quick frozen organic entrees and dinners. After three years I decide to improve the quality of my diet, so I contacted Robin Mallery. Robin helped me create a more nourishing and healthful diet that took my busy teaching and consulting schedule into consideration.

It was a joy to work with Robin. She is knowledgeable, supportive, intuitive, and warm.  I highly recommend her as a Heart Healthy Coach.

Through lifestyle counseling, the sharing of her delicious and healthy family recipes, and an informative and fun "field trip" to a local whole food market, I have shifted to an eating plan that is healthy, delicious, and swiftly prepared. The key to swift and healthy meal preparation for me has been Robin's 90-minute Sunday afternoon food prep model, a strategy that assures quick and delicious high quality meals throughout the week. I consider my leisurely Sunday afternoon food preparation time as self-indulgent "me" time, and enjoy chopping, baking, and sauteing against the backdrop of classical music and a glass of wine.  I also love the fact that a nutritious and delicious dinner is ready when I walk through the door every night of my work week.  It's as if I finally have that personal chef I have always coveted, only it's me!"  ---Patricia J., Nevada City

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