The Tool That Will Help You Enjoy Holiday Meals Again

As holiday parties and meals are added to our calendars, it’s easy for the mind to shift to “all or nothing” way of thinking when it comes to our diet. This way of thinking about the holidays is not only no fun, but also sets us up for failure again and again. The 80/20 approach, however, is a valuable tool that shifts perspective and creates success when eating; especially during the holidays when our dietary habits seem to bend and break.

No more telling ourselves we’ll be good this time around only to give in and eat a whole plate-full of Mom’s famous cookies. Unlike what we’ve been told, it’s not about willpower, and we can enjoy a happy medium. It’s time to choose a different habit – one where we can actually enjoy the holiday season and meals.

What Does it Mean to be 80/20?

The 80/20 mindset allows for healthy moderation and maintenance of one’s physical and mental well-being no matter what temptations arise. That is: Making great choices 80 percent of the time, and moderating/making smarter choices around our favorite treats.

For everyone, it’s slightly different as to what fits into that 20 percent.  We all have different triggers and foods or drinks that delight us more than others. Regardless of whether our indulgence is that glass of wine, that dessert, or that slice of bread, we can use these tools to have a truly happy, healthy holiday – on our terms!

80/20 Meal Tips for a Successful Holiday Experience:

Eat healthy meals every 3-4 hours leading up to the main event:
Rather than starving yourself all day to “save room” and going into the meal with cravings running high, eating balanced, healthy meals that include proteins, vegetables, and fats, beforehand will deter your body from wanting to overdo it at the dinner table.

Choose what you truly want to indulge in – in advance:
Decide what treat you truly want, and have it in moderation. Making the choice makes it special and rewarding. Instead of eating and drinking in excess and feeling miserable afterwards, or trying to resist all temptations (all or nothing thinking), pick your favorites. Decide if you truly want that drink or aren’t in the mood. Or if you truly want to save some room for dessert, or if you’d rather pass on the sweets.

Bring Your Own _:
Whether it’s dessert, a side, appetizer, or even your drink of choice, bring the option you love so you have control over how it’s prepared. That creates what’s called a “win/win” scenario so you aren’t at the mercy of the choices available and you can eat the option your know works well for your body and feel great now and later! A delicious homemade grain-free dessert sweetened with stevia or monk fruit is a far better option than the pies and cookies that send your blood sugar on a roller coaster. 

Moderate alcohol (and don’t drink on an empty stomach):
Alcohol blurs our inhibitions and impacts blood sugar, making it much easier to overindulge at meal-time without meaning to. Keep the drinking to a minimum, only while eating, and have a glass of water before and after. Sip slowly and enjoy.

Swap out sugary alcoholic beverages:
Swap higher sugar drinks like wine, beer and cocktails for a light vodka or tequila soda with lime, or try a mocktail and skip the alcohol altogether. You can easily spice it up with some ginger, cucumber, mint, and a couple drops of stevia. Many times, just having something festive in your hand is all it takes to feel a sense of inclusion in the festivities without the alcohol or sugar high.

Moderate your carbs:
Especially if you are sensitive to gluten-containing foods or are not a fast metabolizer of carbohydrates. Limit your plate to one choice rather than having bread, potatoes and stuffing all at once. This leads to that “food coma” feeling. If you know that stuffing or those carb heavy sides are your favorite, bring your own. Homemade Paleo bread, roasted root vegetables, mashed sweet potatoes, cauliflower mash, or upgraded stuffing are all easy and healthier ways to fill your plate. Get creative while indulging, without the guilt or food coma. 

Fill your plate with veggies first:
Crowd your plate with roasted veggies, side salad, etc. – first, then add in the starchier carbohydrate focused dishes in smaller portions on the side.  

Don’t think your family will have many non-starchy veggies?: 
Bring them to share!  Roasted Brussels Sprouts, for example, are so easy to make and most people love them. They are full of fiber, rich in protein, and most importantly satiating. 

Have a game plan for if you accidentally over-indulge:
Hey, it happens, but rather than seeking perfection, know that these little “oops” moments are inevitable. Make a plan in advance so you can easily course-correct and feel better. Aim to take a walk after dinner, or move away from the dinner/dessert table after your are finished to avoid picking at leftovers.  


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