Eat and celebrate well over the holidays

Jaclyn Lewis  ·  Sep 28, 2017

Holiday celebrations bring the year’s greatest temptations to neglect—or procrastinate on—your healthy eating goals.

But there is hope!

Here are five tips to both celebrate and eat well this season:

1. Focus on thinking “Eat this!” instead of “Don’t eat that!”

We know our Heavenly Father gave Adam and Eve an entire garden of fruit trees to eat that were “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9). Viewing wholesome food as God’s gift to our bodies for nourishment, healing, and enjoyment will not only get us eating healthy food, but give us a healthy and sustainable perspective on eating.

In fact, a recent analysis of public health campaigns shows that it’s better to think in terms of the “good foods” you can eat, and the many good things they do for your body. Nutritious food is that which best meets our bodies needs!

2. Commit now to a healthy eating strategy

A recent study shows that only a few of us ever manage to lose the  weight gained over the holidays, and it takes many months even for the few who do succeed. This can contribute to declining health that worsens year after year.

When it comes to weight gain, Cornell University researcher Dr. Brian Wansink explains, “It’s easier to avoid holiday pounds altogether than to lose them after they happen.”

Whether your health goals involve losing weight, putting on muscle, or overcoming an illness, make a plan and begin implementing it now, before temptation arrives.

3. Form realistic expectations

While trying to eat better, we may be too hard on ourselves, or we may give up completely. Neither of these tendencies is helpful, but there is a way to avoid them.

Long term diet surveys show that simple, sustainable changes are most productive.

Nutrition consultant Angela Johnson suggests “making one small change to your eating or drinking habits a week, and maintain this as you add other small changes in subsequent weeks.”

4. Eat “real” food

Two Yale researchers compared six popular healthy eating styles, and found they all featured “real” food.

  • Plenty of good quality meats, eggs, and dairy
  • Plenty of whole fruits and vegetables
  • Limited added sugars (i.e., nearly all packaged food!)
  • Limited refined starches (i.e., white bread or pasta)
  • Limited processed foods (i.e., breakfast cereal, fruit snacks, chips)

Practically speaking, stick mostly to the outside aisles of the grocery store.

5. Plan how to handle sweets

If Gary Taubes is right (see opposite page) many of us are carboholics, and sugar is actually addicting. We should all realize it may be very difficult to indulge just a little bit and then stop.

Consider drawing a hard line and avoiding sweets altogether. 

  • Enjoy a carefully chosen desert, like fruit dipped in dark chocolate or lavished in homemade whipped cream.
  • At Thanksgiving, plan to fill up on generous helpings of turkey and real food homemade sides. Keep in mind that nutritious food is also satisfying. Think of sweets as something offering only fleeting pleasure.
  • At Christmas parties, snack off the cheese, fruit, or veggie platters. Go for the deviled eggs and appetizers wrapped in bacon.

Whatever your strategy, the holidays are joyous, God-given occasions of feasting and merriment. Go ahead and celebrate, but without undermining your God-given health.