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Healthy Holiday Habits : How to find balance during the season of celebrations

Once November hits, it seems like social calendars fill up faster each week, and occasions for eating, drinking and general merrymaking are abundant. By the time we reach December, things often feel out of control! Events with schools, extracurricular gatherings, holiday meetups with friends, work parties (do those even happen anymore?), and seasonal celebrations take over. Besides the social commitments, we all have our favorite food-related traditions this time of year (advent calendars, seasonal baking, and the soon-to-arrive galette des rois in France!).

How can you handle all of the holiday eating while maintaining healthy balance this season in your home? As a dietitian, here are my top tips for staying on top of your health and feeling your best this time of year.

  1. Plan healthy meals when you are in control of the menu. Not every meal is part of a celebration (though sometimes it can feel that way!), so take advantage of the quieter eating occasions to focus on food that feels good. This might mean a substantial vegetable and bean soup, fish and roasted vegetables, or a decked-out salad. Breakfast is rarely used as a social eating occasion, so be sure to eat a balanced meal to start the day. Focus on lean protein, healthy fats, and produce. Perhaps a tomato, spinach and feta omelet with whole grain toast? Oatmeal with seeds, cinnamon and apples? Or chia pudding with coconut milk and mango?

  2. If you enjoy it, consider hosting! You can be in control of the menu and the event. This gives you the chance to focus on whole food-based dishes, serve produce-heavy menus, or let your favorite healthy recipe shine. Is it too much for you to plan a whole menu right now? It is for me… try going potluck style, offering a healthy main dish and encouraging your guests to bring sides or add-ones. Which leads me to point #3

  3. Invited to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish. Instead of bringing wine or dessert, contribute some high fiber, nutrient-rich foods to an apéro platter (crudités, nuts, cut fruit, hummus and whole grain crackers) or offer to bring a salad or side veggie dish!

  4. Donate excess sweets to school, friends, food shelters or food drives (packaged of course). I know we still have some Halloween candy haunting our house, and have gotten some lovely gifts of chocolates, holiday cookies, sugar-laden breakfast spreads, and more. It’s just too much to keep in the house and can feel overwhelming! Share cookies along with fruit, cheese, and nuts (ask about allergies first!) during a holiday goûter. Donate old candy, breakfast spreads or packaged cookies to food drives. There is no shame in enjoying the items you love - or in finding a new home for the items that don’t feel worth it.

  5. Find enjoyable movement - even if it is short in duration. Movement is good for so many reasons, both mental and physical. Movement can aid the body in natural detoxification processes and helps to balance blood sugar, so fit in exercise any way you can. Even a 10-minute walk after a meal can make a meaningful difference.

  6. Hydrate. Support your body this time of year by hydrating properly. Aim for 2 liters of water daily. This simple habit improves digestion, helps regulate hunger, boosts energy and supports so many systems in your body. Keep a water bottle filled and on hand!

  7. Don’t stress! Part of health is finding community and having enjoyable social outlets, so enjoying company and events can be a healthy act in itself.

How do you find balance during this busy time of year? Do you use any of these tips already? Have any strategies not included here that you swear by? Share in the comments!

Happy holidays to everyone!


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