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Well, it’s that time of the year again. You know? One holiday party after another that keeps coming in between you and eating healthy. It’s almost like you can’t avoid it. Thanksgiving is easier to handle because it’s a one-day splurge event but eating in December is like a marathon. With all the office parties and family events, gatherings tend to revolve around casseroles, eggnog, and cookies. It’s safe to say that Santa isn’t the only one who over-indulges over Christmas.

But believe it or not, making healthy, clean-eating choices is possible during the holidays. And, it doesn’t have to be a time where you put your goals on hold till the New Year. All you need is a game plan and a few tips to get you through the rest of the year. You can enjoy this season without feeling guilty or like you blew your nutrition goals.

Here are 10 tips for balancing eating healthy, while also enjoying your holiday favorites.

Tip #1: Basic health 101, don’t skip breakfast:
We all know that breakfast is an essential part of a healthy diet. And, while skipping meals may sound like a good way to cut calories, it could actually result in overeating. That just defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Starting off the day with a healthy, balanced meal can help you regulate the number of calories taken-in throughout the day. So, try including fibers, like oatmeal, and add in some colorful fruits and veggies.

Tip #2: Avoid overeating and grab a {small} plate:
One of the most overlooked strategies to avoid overeating is simply using your plate and a smaller one at that. This immediately limits the amount of food you can put on it and encourages proper portion sizes. Another strategy is to divide your plate. Think about the 50/25/25 rule. The first and biggest half (50%) is strictly for vegetables. In fact, eating a salad before your meal helps you consume fewer calories overall, but broccoli and other veggies are just as good. Then, there are two smaller halves (25% and 25%). These two sections are meant for starches and protein; like a cup of potatoes (size of your fist) and a 3-ounce piece of meat (size of your palm). We know that holiday meals tend to be on the larger side and usually include two or three helpings – so remember to eat slowly and wait about 15 minutes before considering that second plate.

Tip #3: Mingle away from the buffet table:
Portion control is important during the holidays, especially when you’re eating and mingling the whole time.  So, after your meal, try staying away from the buffet table so you avoid mindless grazing. There’s no need for that “uncomfortably full, need to unbutton my pants” kind of feeling we all know we’ve had. Remember, the turkey was meant to be stuffed…not you too.

Tip #4: Practice mindful eating:
Saying something like “focus on what you’re eating” might sound odd to some. However, doing this will help you enjoy the food for its taste and texture. Mindful eating is a practice that is growing and is very useful during the holiday season. Studies have shown that people who take time to be mindful of their foods are less likely to overeat. So, fix a serving of your favorites, and enjoy!

Tip #5: Watch those beverages:
It’s easy to overlook the calories that come with sugary beverages. We get it. With all those holiday events come cocktails, sodas, eggnog, etc. But, is it worth all those packed calories? There are simple ways to make healthier choices; like choosing a wine spritzer at the party, water instead of soda at dinner, and skim milk in your latte in the morning over regular milk. See, that’s not so bad.

Tip #6: Use that southern hospitality and offer to bring a dish:
Have you ever been invited to a friend’s party, just knowing that there will be nothing healthy to eat? If you find yourself in this situation, consider bringing your own dish. This way, you’ll know that there will be a healthy option for you, and the host might even appreciate the gesture.

Tip #7: Stock your home with healthy ingredients:
Making healthy choices while you’re out to dinner isn’t the only hurdle to jump. It’s also essential to make smart choices at home. To do this, make sure your fridge is stocked with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy snacks.

Tip #8: Don’t deny your favorites. After all, it is the holidays:
Speaking of your favorites, let’s not leave them out. Sometimes the cravings for your favorite chocolate cake or cheeseburger just calls your name, and that’s okay! Eating your favorite foods is perfectly fine, in moderation. Remember that enjoying your favorite meal or dessert does not mean you’ve given up on your nutrition goals. In fact, refusing foods can often lead to overeating. So, treat yourself every once and a while!

Tip #9: Move it, move it. Get your body moving:
After the holiday meals have been eaten, make sure to get some exercise – just 20 or 30 minutes a day. Instead of sitting around the house with your extended family, ask them to go on a walk outside or shoot some hoops with the kids. However, physical activity isn’t just important after meals. Starting your day off with a workout can also help burn calories throughout the entire day and keep that metabolism moving. And know that if you fall off track during the holiday season, it’s okay. You can always start the New Year off with a clean slate.

Tip #10: Visit with one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists
If you’re searching for dietary help, support as we dive into the holiday season, or if you just want to learn more about overall healthy, clean-eating – schedule an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists!

Being healthy during the holiday season doesn’t mean it can’t include some of your favorite holiday foods. Even better, Christmas and holiday parties don’t have to ruin your clean-eating streak. So, don’t stress. The key is to aim for balanced, mindful eating. The best part of it all…you don’t have to do it alone! You can eagerly conquer this holiday season with all these tips, and even better – by scheduling a checkup with your ELFP provider.

Remember, choosing the smaller portions can result in a big difference (and not having to buy larger pants in the New Year).

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