Tips for a Healthy Holiday

By Wenjun Liu, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

December is about family and food and seasonal celebrations can help us forget about everything 2020 has brought and not notice the winter cold as much. A big part of the season is delicious food. Having a piece of pecan pie and a tumbler of eggnog should not bring you anxiety, but instead, should bring pure joy with every single bite and sip. 

You don’t need to deprive yourself, eat only boring foods, or take your treats with a side order of guilt. Here are some tips for a healthy holiday season: 

  1. Don’t celebrate with an empty fuel tank. Before setting out for a feast with the family, eat something so you are not starving. Snack on something that combines complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese on whole-wheat pita bread. When you’re super hungry, it is much harder to practice restraint at the celebration.
  2. Take 10 before taking seconds. It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s “I’m getting full” signal to get to your brain. After finishing your first round of food, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realize you are full or want only a small portion of seconds.
  3. Distance helps the heart stay healthy. Don’t linger in the kitchen. That makes it easier to mindlessly reach for food. 
  4. Drink, Drink, Drink. Have a glass of water between holiday drinks. It will help keep you from drinking more than you wanted to and also keep you hydrated!
  5. Put on your sneakers. Exercising is a great way to work off some holiday anxiety and boost physical and mental health. If you are at a family gathering, suggest some games with body movements before the feast or even between dinner and dessert.
  6. Make room for veggies. At meals, don’t ignore fruits and vegetables. They make great snacks and even better side or main dishes. Find a “MyPlate” Holiday makeover presentation here.
  7. Don’t shop hungry. Eat before you go shopping to minimize straying from your list with impulse buys. 
  8. Pay attention to what really matters. Although food is an integral part of the holidays, it is really the time for family and friends. Whether you plan to celebrate the holiday in person or virtually, treasure the time of the year when you can truly sit down and catch up with everyone. 

Hope you all enjoy this special holiday season. Stay safe and have fun! 

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