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We are officially in the holiday season!! Whilst this is an exciting time for many, it can be anxiety-inducing for those of us on a weight loss journey. 

It can be quite the challenge to navigate increased socialising around sources of constant indulgence/temptation. There’s also the concern of potentially undoing any weight loss progress achieved leading up to the holiday season.

However, it does not have to be this stressful. As long as you have some strategies on hand to help you stay on track, you can enjoy this time of the year along with everyone else.

Here are a 7 ways to keep you diet on track this Holiday Season:

1. Set Realistic Goals:

More often than not we tend to set these massive goals for the holiday season that are simply not achievable. We aim for perfection and ultimately set ourselves up for failure. When we set goals, it is important to factor in enjoyment, overeating, indulgence, socialising, spontaneity, snacking and eating out.

  • Moderation: Acknowledge that the holidays are a special time, and it’s okay to enjoy treats in moderation. Moderation gives you more freedom, but still allows for some structure.
  • Achievable: Set achievable goals that allow for flexibility. If you know that holidays are a time when you would normally indulge, allow for weight maintenance during this time rather than weight loss.
  • Specificity: Make your goals specific, so that you have direction and aren’t just indulging impulsively.

Be clear on your values: Assess your values and make sure to prioritise those: i.e family, spontaneity, physical activity.

 2. Portion control

Portion control is crucial to follow during your holiday season diet, as it allows you to enjoy festive meals without overindulging in excessive calories. It is also helpful in navigating social eating situations. Here are some tips for managing portion sizes during holiday celebrations:

  • Use Smaller Plates and Bowls: Opt for smaller plates and bowls to naturally limit the amount of food you can serve yourself. This visual cue can help control portions.
  • Fill Half Your Plate with Vegetables: Load up at least half of your plate with colourful, non-starchy vegetables. They are low in calories and high in nutrients, helping you feel full without excess calories.
  • Avoid Seconds Immediately: After finishing your first serving, wait before deciding to go back for seconds. It takes some time for your body to signal fullness, and this pause can help you assess whether you’re genuinely hungry for more.
  • Avoid Grazing: Resist the temptation to continually graze on snacks and appetizers throughout the day. Designate specific times for meals and snacks.

3. Do not skip meals

Many people restrict their intake during the day as a way to ‘save calories’, so that they can eat more when they’re out socialising. This is a slippery slope to navigate, as it can feel restrictive and potentially lead to overeating when you finally allow yourself to eat. Reasons for this include:

  • Increased Hunger: Skipping a meal can result in increased hunger later. When you finally eat, you may be more inclined to consume larger portions or choose high-calorie foods to satisfy your heightened hunger.
  • Impaired Self-Control: Hunger can impair your ability to make healthy food choices and practice portion control. 
  • Compensatory Eating: Subconsciously, you may feel the need to “make up” for the missed meal by eating more during subsequent meals or snacks.

4. Practice Mindful Eating

The holiday season is usually a time for people to come together with friends and family, which is often accompanied by eating. If we are not intentional about when and what we eat, we end up eating way more than we need and still don’t feel satiated. 

To counter this, it is important to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating is an approach to food consumption that emphasizes being fully present and engaged in the eating experience. It encourages awareness of physical hunger and fullness cues and can reduce impulsive eating.

Here are some tips to practice mindful eating:

  • Be Present: Pay attention to the entire eating experience. Engage your senses by appreciating the colours, textures, and aromas of your food.
  • Slow Down: Eat slowly and savour each bite. Put your fork down between bites, and take time to chew your food thoroughly. This allows your body to recognize feelings of fullness.
  • Use All Your Senses: Notice the taste, smell, and texture of each dish. 
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.

5. Prioritise protein and fibre foods

Protein and fibre are 2 nutrients that are crucial to include in your diet at all times of the year, even during the holiday season. Both of these help you feel fuller for longer, leaves you feeling satisfied and reduces the likelihood of overeating.

Here are some tips for prioritizing protein and fibre:

  • If you snack, choose options that contain a combination of protein and fibre to keep you satisfied.
  • Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meat and nuts in your diet.
  • Choose whole, unprocessed foods over refined options.

6. Bring the salad

If you’re on a weight loss journey, the holiday season can feel extremely isolating. The reason for this is that we often feel like we can’t enjoy the festivities because we can’t eat what everyone else is eating. 

The best way to deal with this is to take your own dish to holiday gatherings to ensure that you have a healthy option that aligns with your dietary preferences. This will ensure that you have something healthy to snack on along with some of the other festive foods.

Some healthy options include:

  • Vegetable Platter with Hummus: Arrange a colourful assortment of fresh vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and snap peas. Include a healthy dip such as hummus on the side.
  • Quinoa Salad: Prepare a quinoa salad with a mix of cooked quinoa, diced vegetables and fresh herbs.
  • Fruit Salad: Create a refreshing fruit salad with a mix of seasonal fruits like berries, melons, grapes, and citrus segments.
  • Stuffed Bell Peppers: Make a filling dish by stuffing bell peppers with a mixture of lean ground turkey or chicken, quinoa, black beans, corn, and spices.

7. Stay hydrated

Our bodies can sometimes mistake thirst for hunger, which can be particularly problematic during this time of the year, with all the different drinks available. The sensations of thirst and hunger are controlled by different parts of the brain, but they can produce similar signals, which we often misinterpret.

To avoid mistaking thirst for hunger, consider the following tips:

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day, especially before meals. Sometimes, a glass of water can help quench feelings of hunger.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you’ve recently eaten and still feel hungry, try drinking water first. If the hunger persists, it may be genuine.
  • Start with Water: When you feel the urge to snack, start by drinking a glass of water. Wait a few minutes and see if your feelings of hunger subside.
  • Hydrating Foods: Consume foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables, which can contribute to your overall hydration.

It’s essential to be mindful of your body’s signals and respond appropriately. If you’re unsure whether you’re truly hungry or just thirsty, a glass of water is generally a good first step.

With all of the above in mind, remember that the holidays are a time to be enjoyed. 

The most important thing is to strike a balance between savouring special treats and maintaining a healthy diet. 

Don’t aim for perfection and try to avoid an all or nothing mindset. If you find yourself deviating from your plan on occasion, don’t be too hard on yourself. Focus on making positive choices moving forward. If you are really struggling with your diet this Holiday season Eat Smart team is here to help.

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