The holidays seem to be a time of year in which over-eating and ending up in a “food coma” is the norm. Then January comes around and we’re trying to lose that extra 5-15 pounds we just gained. If you’re like us and want to avoid this trend, read below for 10 tips to help you eat healthy this holiday season.
1. Serve Yourself-Serving Sizes: Holiday meals often mean buffet tables and second servings. When serving yourself, keep portions in mind. In general, you should fill at least half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
2. Mindful Eating: Focus on the taste, textures, and smells of your food. It takes roughly twenty minutes for signals from your gut to reach your brain when you are satiated. Studies (1, 2) show distracted eating can reduce pleasure during meal times and even cause you to eat beyond fullness. You can also drink a sip of water after a couple bites of food which will also help with eating slower.
3. Herbal Digestive Aids: Enjoy herbal digestive aids between and after meals. Herbal teas like ginger, peppermint, and dandelion can aid in digestion by stimulating saliva and other digestive enzymes. Snuggle up with some herbal tea after your holiday meals.
4. Fill Up With (Healthy) Fibers: Fiber is the part of plant foods that can’t be broken down by your digestive tract. This includes insoluble fibers like those in whole grains and soluble fibers found in beans, oats, and other fruits and vegetables. Fiber is important for your diet and helps to keep things moving but it also helps you feel full faster. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables to increase your fiber this holiday season.
5. Balance with Bitter: Bitter flavors are wake up call for the digestive system and help stimulate your body to produce enzymes important in digestion. These important enzymes help you breakdown and get nutrients from your food. Incorporate bitter foods such as chicory, arugula, endive, and frisée early on in your meal as salads, or in beverages or cocktails to get your gut going.
6. Alcohol Alternatives, Mocktails over Cocktails: Holiday party drinks are often loaded with sugar. Replace or alternate sweet beverages with low sugar options like sparkling water, herbal sodas (try a splash of our herbal simple syrup in sparkling water!), or unsweetened tea or coffee. Swap out alcoholic beverages with mocktails (cocktails without the alcohol) like this one. Brownie points if you drink digestive bitters pre-meal.
Insider tip: If you will be partaking in adult beverages over the holidays (as many do), take a note from the Europeans and enjoy an apertif pre-meal and a digestif post-meal. Apertifs are typically dry, rather than sweet, low-alcohol beverages that help stimulate the appetite. Digestifs often contain carminative herbs that help with digestion (and flatulence).
7. Color Your Plate: Choose deeply colored fruits and vegetables to ensure you are getting the most nutrients (think dark leafy greens, pomegranate, berries). Darker colored fruits and veggies typically contain higher levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants like anthocyanin and beta carotene. Make sure to get hearty helpings of these intensely colored leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables on every plate.
8. Avoid Extra (Rich) Sauces: Holiday menus often include rich sauces, gravy, whip cream, and more. Skip heavier toppings or replace with healthy fats like olive oil, or sour and bitter condiments like vinegar dressing.
9. Don’t Skip Meals: It may be tempting to save your appetite for your major holiday gatherings, but skipping meals can lead to overeating at your next meal. Treat your holidays as you would any other day and aim to eat three meals to stave off cravings (and avoid being “hangry”) later on.
10. Stay Moving: Wet winter weather makes the idea of staying curled up on the couch all too alluring, but it’s important to keep moving over the holidays. Opt outside when you can by enjoying family walks after meals, or better yet, show them what’s growing in your garden!