Find Your Eating Balance During the Holiday Season

December 20, 2022

Tips and tricks from Sync Registered Dietitian Lauren Zimmerman

Like birthdays, weddings, and vacations, the holidays are an important part of our lives. While these times pull us out of our typical routine and involve celebratory foods and drinks, they make life exciting! Learning to balance these occasions is key to a sustainable way of eating and living.  Here’s a few tips to stay on track.

Write it down

Write down what about your diet and lifestyle is key to making you feel your best and why this important. Then, write down what about the holidays is special to you that you want to incorporate and why this is important. Then ask yourself, how can you balance all this together?

Shift focus to other aspects of the holidays

Let the holidays be about more than just the food. What about the holidays do you love and how can you celebrate these?

Don’t skip meals

On days when a dinner or holiday gathering is planned, it may be tempting to skip meals leading up to the event to save calories, but this often leads to overeating and eating faster than you are able to feel enjoyment. Plus, your body still needs nutrition throughout the day. By eating regularly, you will keep your energy levels stable, mood up, and the day is more enjoyable. Listen to your body, honor, and trust your hunger and fullness signals.

Share your favorite dishes with others

If there are dishes you enjoy that also make you feel your best, make, and share with others. This is a way to connect through food and let others experience something you enjoy.

Maintain your physical activity level

Exercise, move your body, and get outside for fresh air. Not only does movement benefit physical health, but movement positively impacts mood and feelings of positivity. Physical activity can also help break the cycle of endless snacking, which can be more common this time of year.

At buffets, be selective and don’t arrive too hungry

To avoid arriving at the buffet starving to the point you will eat anything and too fast, have a handful of nuts or fresh, fibrous fruit like an apple beforehand. To help you be selective, scan the food spread before building your plate and mentally decide what to get. Just because it is there doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Select the items you are most excited about and build your plate with fresh, lighter items as well like salad, fruit, raw vegetables, bean salad, and/or non-creamy dishes to add volume and offset the more decadent dishes.

If drinking alcohol, decide how many drinks beforehand

Decide with a clear mind, whether you are going to drink and if you are, how many drinks you will have. Alcohol is a depressant, especially the next day, so just think through before drinking. In conversation it can also be easy to drink faster than normal. Drink water with alcohol to slow it down.

Get creative in the kitchen

If you have made healthy changes to the way you eat, incorporate those into what you traditionally eat during the holidays. If sweet potato casserole with extra sugar and butter is a favorite try, roasting sweet potatoes with pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup and get a fine flavor with more health benefit.

A few other tips:

Sit down to eat rather than standing up. Sitting down slows down the eating process and promotes a greater sense of satisfaction with the meal.

Be careful about grazing all day. With grazing and snacking, it is hard to ever feel hungry or full. Grazing is also often done more mindlessly, so the satisfaction is less, and we continue to search for that satisfaction.

With appetizers, be selective and don’t stand next to the appetizer table as it’s easy to mindlessly eat in conversation.

Thinking about seconds? Pause for 10-15 minutes before going back for more. It takes time to register fullness.

To end the meal who doesn’t love the variety of treats. Instead of full-sized pieces of each try sharing a few varieties to get the taste without overindulging.

Above all else, enjoy. Enjoy the holidays. Going into them with stable habits helps get you through in a balanced way. If you want to begin developing lifelong food habits, seek guidance from a registered dietitian. You can start with a complimentary session to review your goals and see what change can look like.


Modern Minds with MUSC Health

Synchronicity is a subsidiary of Modern Minds, a non-profit organization dedicated to treating and empowering mental health and wellbeing. We often partner together to offer truly integrative care for Modern Minds clients, Synchronicity members and the greater Lowcountry community.