Reducing Stress This Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, full of good cheer and celebrating. But all that good cheer comes with the challenge of how to follow a healthful diet, while still connecting with loved ones and keeping up with a busier calendar. The goal? Do the best we can to eat nutritiously (while still splurging on a cookie…or two!).

Keep a food journal
A food log is a very accessible tool with a big impact. Whether it’s on your phone or simple pen and paper, when you note everything you eat and drink as you are doing it, you’ll have a good picture of what you’re eating. It’s essential to keep the log throughout the day as waiting until the end of the day may mean you forget a nibble or two (like that chocolate you grabbed off your co-worker’s desk).

Eat clean where you can
That evening party at your favorite Italian restaurant will likely mean an eating splurge, but lunch doesn’t have to be. Balance out your day, eat simple salads, and seek other nourishing meals earlier in the day to control your calories and limit your intake of less healthy attributes like salt and saturated fat. Aim for vegetable-based dishes, lean proteins and grains to ensure balanced meals that offer a variety of nutrients.

Save treats for the times when it’s worth it
Yup…it pays to grade your desserts. A slice of store-bought cake shouldn’t score as high as the beloved perfect pie your friend makes just for the holidays. At the same time, a brownie that your friend just happened to bring into work today may not be as meaningful as the brownie you can enjoy tonight at your relaxing holiday dinner. Savor the desserts that score high points for being special and that you can slow down to relish.

Slow down and enjoy the moment
Speaking of slowing down…many of us need to do just that during the busy holiday season. It may sound almost impossible, but even if it’s just a few minutes of relaxing (and breathing!) or a brief quiet meditation using one of the many apps available today, it’s a valuable and essential part of your holidays. We know that being stressed can have a negative impact on our food choices, health, and weight. Reduce that stress to lower your risk.

Bring the healthy dish
It’s a simple strategy that goes a long way. When you’re asked to bring a dish to a holiday gathering ensure it’s a healthful option so that you know for sure there is at least one “safe” and healthy choice there to eat.

Create a mindful plate
We know it’s easy to overeat at parties. Limit this potential by simply using a plate rather than eating a little of this and that straight from the buffet table without knowing just how much you are consuming. Once you make a plate that looks like an appropriate amount of food, then go ahead and enjoy the conversation and connections that you came to celebrate at the party without worrying about overeating.

Natural ways to reduce stress
There are a few ways to control stress through our food choices. Sip some tea, which offers l-Theanine, to induce a calm, improved sleep, and possibly a lower heart rate. Or go ahead and eat just a small portion of chocolate to induce happiness and boost serotonin levels. Lastly, grab some produce and make sure to include salad with your dinner.

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