For most of us, the holiday season is filled with gatherings, office parties, cookie exchanges, and other fun-filled festivities that bring so much joy, and a wide variety of food and goodies! If there’s any time of year where people tend to put on a few pounds, it is definitely the holiday season because a calendar filled with gatherings makes it hard to stick to a schedule of meal planning, exercise, and, even, sleep.

The good news is that you can make it through the holiday season without overindulging if you follow these two easy steps. The first step is to shift your focus from worrying about overeating to being mindful about what you eat, at events and at home. The second is to put the practice into place. Here’s how.

Follow the 80/20 Rule at Home

Following the 80/20 rule year-round will help you eat a healthy diet the majority of time while also allowing some indulgences. 80 percent of the time the bulk of your diet should come from whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, legumes, and healthy fats. The other 20 percent of the time is for your favorite indulgences. For example, if you are planning to indulge in the holiday office party luncheon, eat clean for breakfast and dinner. The trick is to practice balance and moderation.

Before a Party

If you’re going to a party where you know there is going to be scrumptious food, drinks, and dessert, don’t go hungry. Fill up on healthy food throughout the day and before the event, have a protein-packed green smoothie and/or protein and fiber snack (hummus and vegetables, apple and string cheese, whole grain crackers and almond butter) to keep you feeling satiated which will help you make healthier decisions about which foods you select to eat.

At the Party

If there is an item you’ve been looking forward to, like Aunt Anne’s chocolate bread pudding or Grandma’s mac n cheese, have a small serving (about the size of your palm or less) so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.

If you’re attending a sit-down dinner party, keep in mind that you don’t have to eat everything that is served to you. Think of the “ECW Plate” and mentally (or even physically) divide your plate as follows: 1/2 greens, 1/4 protein, and small bites of savory/sweet indulgences. This plate rule will help you design a more balanced, healthier plate. Follow it, even if it means leaving half the garlic mashed potatoes uneaten.

Don’t be afraid to ask for alternatives. Most restaurants or caterers expect guests to ask for substitutes. Inquire if they will switch the starch item for an extra serving of vegetables or a whole grain instead of a refined grain (i.e., brown rice instead of white rice).

If you feel like you want to indulge in a few of your favorite foods, don’t stress about it. As long as you are following the 80/20 rule you will get back on track at the next meal.

A Note about Alcohol

Consuming excess alcohol tends to lead to eating unmindfully during an event and indulging in greasy food the next day. A good rule of thumb to drinking mindfully is to commit to a two-drink maximum per event with a glass of water between each drink, and plenty of water before and after.

Take it one step further by looking at your calendar and choosing which events you will have one or two drinks at and which events you will abstain from drinking.

If You’re Hosting the Party

As a host of a holiday gathering, provide a variety of healthy options alongside your regularly planned party fare. Here are some suggestions:

  • For appetizers: Offer plenty of fresh crunchy vegetables alongside chips and crackers and dips or a selection of fresh fruit with your charcuterie plate.
  • For the starter course: Offer a seasonal soup (try this recipe for roasted butternut squash and cider soup) in addition to a salad for the starter course.
  • For the main course: Offer a variety of roasted vegetables (they are easy to cook in large batches on a sheet tray) and/or substitute sweet potatoes for regular potatoes or a quinoa dish for rice pilaf (or in addition to).
  • For cocktails: Offer a festive mocktail in addition to your regular bar beverages. Have infused water available to encourage hydration (try this citrus peppermint-infused water recipe).

You can find lots of healthy food alternative options or food swap ideas on the internet.

Eating mindfully during the holiday feeling will leave you feeling lighter, happier, and healthier for the new year ahead.

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