Here’s how to eat healthier while still indulging during the holidays

Eat healthy and be happy this holiday season with tips from health experts | Photo courtesy of Utah State University Extension offices, for St. George News

FEATURE The holidays are full of family, friends and food traditions. We look forward to a sense of connection, satisfied tastes, and new memories; however, many went overboard for the sake of tradition.

Stock image | Photo courtesy of USU Extension, St. George News

An average American consumes about 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day when considering pre-meal snacking, the actual dinner, dessert, then leftovers in the evening. That’s more than double the standard recommendation for healthy adults. So, is there a way to indulge in our favorite traditions while also indulging our health?

Fortunately, the answer is yes! By setting ourselves up for success and focusing more on adding healthy opportunities, we’ll feel better, take care of the bodies that got us through the year, and fully enjoy the things we love most about the holidays. Consider these tips for adding healthy options to your holiday enjoyment.

Focus on health instead of falling off the wagon for the holidays. You don’t have to eat tasteless food. You also don’t have to overdo it until you feel sick. Find ways to add some healthy options to your favorite traditional foods and find ways to add fun and connected movement. You can still enjoy, indulge and make healthy decisions.

Indulge in the complete mealtime experience. Enjoy the tastes, smells, feelings of connection, conversation and atmosphere. You can fully indulge by slowing down, connecting with the people around you, enjoying every bite and listening to your body when it tells you you’re done eating.

Eat what you want and leave what you want. It’s easy to get into the habit of trying everything and cleaning your plate. But if you don’t like the taste, or if your body is satisfied, you don’t have to bite again. Don’t choose foods you really don’t like just because they’re there.

Add healthy options. If your family loves snacks, try healthy options like nuts, citrus or dried fruit. Add some fruit and vegetable side dishes to mealtimes. Find fruit and vegetable food art ideas and enjoy them with the family.

Make healthy meal replacements:

  • Try whole wheat bread instead of white.
  • Ditch the ham for leaner meats like turkey, chicken, or seafood.
  • Replace two or three unhealthy side dishes with a vegetable dish.
  • Add fruit or change an ingredient in your dessert recipe for a healthier alternative.
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt for flavor.
  • Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages with water or hot teas.
Eat healthy and be happy this holiday season with tips from health experts | Photo courtesy of Utah State University Extension offices, for St. George News

Stay hydrated. Sometimes our bodies crave unhealthy options when we’re thirsty. Keep water on the table, make sure you’re hydrated before meals, and listen to your body as you eat with each bite.

Don’t be hungry. You will enjoy food more if you are not hungry. Do not skip meals during the day. This will allow you to focus on enjoying the full experience of flavors, textures, and sensations instead of frantically satisfying your hunger.

Pack snacks. Keep healthy snacks in your purse, bag, or car while you’re on the run getting ready for the holidays.

Serve foods on a smaller plate to help with portion considerations. Give yourself the freedom to refill your plate as needed.

Don’t skip sleep. Being tired can dull our sense of hunger and satiety and lead to less healthy eating habits.

Create family holiday traditions that involve active movement for at least 30 minutes every day. This could be a family flag football game, hiking, playing in the snow, walking, relay races, etc. Just move, and make it fun!

We can create better health through small and simple choices that lead to better experiences with our favorite traditions and connections. Simple, healthy choices become healthy habits, which become healthy lifestyles. So, this holiday season, increase your holiday cheer.

For those with diabetes, find healthy tips for holiday eating here.

Written by JULENE REESE, Utah State University Extension.

Copyright Utah State University, all rights reserved.

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