Healthy Holiday Habits for Balanced Eating

Here at A Grade Ahead, like much of the world, we are gearing up for the holiday season. Roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and corn are just a few staples that are commonly found at Thanksgiving dinner. Similarly, the month of December often brings along another round of delicious, carb-heavy food. So how do you manage to keep up with healthy, balanced eating choices when heaps of your favorite dishes are yours for the taking? Instead of worrying about macro tracking and calorie counting, here are a few tips that will let you enjoy the holidays without unnecessary guilt from over-indulging in the season’s famous feasts.

Stay Active

Staying active is a great way to offset those heavy holiday meals. With the weather turning colder, and the sun setting earlier, it can be difficult to maintain your regularly scheduled exercise routine. If you don’t already have a winter exercise regimen, the challenge can be even greater; however, if you are able to create or maintain regular exercise, you are already on the right track to smart and balanced eating during the holidays. The team at UAB Medical West shares that creating a calorie deficit by exercising before you partake in meals is a great way to maintain health during the holidays.

Some things to consider as the holidays progress:

    • Take the stairs over the elevator.
    • Look for hands-on activities instead of television shows.
    • Add 100 extra steps to your typical walking/running routine.
    • Bring along family – You can spend time together while staying fit.
    • Take a tip from A Grade Ahead and combine math, English, and exercise in a fall walk!

Don’t Skip Breakfast

In the late 1800s, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and James Caleb Jackson came up with the phrase, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” At the time, this was simply a ploy to convince people to purchase breakfast cereal, but as it turns out, science says breakfast really is a very important meal. Some people are convinced that saving room for the “big meal” at dinner is the best method to ensure balanced eating, but the opposite is usually true. If you skip breakfast, you risk overeating later because of how hungry you will feel. In addition, the professionals at Henry Ford Health say that breakfast is essential to jump-start the metabolism at the start of the day. Without it, things move at a sluggish pace.

Here are some ideas for a fast, healthy breakfast:

    • Greek Yogurt
    • Oatmeal
    • Whole Grain Toast
    • Eggs
    • Fruit

Fill Up on the “Good” Stuff

Some of the dishes served at holiday meals are full of empty carbohydrates. Empty carbs simply mean that the carbohydrate is highly processed with little nutritional value. Don’t worry, you can still indulge in your favorites rolls and pies, but try to do so consciously. In other words, grab a serving of your favorite vegetable side, or perhaps a few cubes of delicious cheese before you make your way to the dessert table.

Be Mindful of Your Second Trip

Sometimes, the food at holiday feasts is so delicious that people will seek out second servings just because they love the way it tastes. While this might feel good at the moment, the feeling likely won’t last long. Not only do you risk doubling your food intake, but you also risk overeating, which can cause extreme fatigue, bloating, and even an upset stomach. Luckily, there are ways to mitigate that risk.

    • Avoid the trip for seconds altogether if that is what your body tells you.
    • Grab a smaller plate, like a dessert plate, for your second trip.
    • Consider including more (or all) fresh and unprocessed foods on your second trip.

Remember that it is the Holiday Season

Maintaining a balanced diet is always important to your overall health. After all, the food you eat is what fuels your body. Because of the importance your diet places in your everyday life, it makes sense to educate yourself about making smart decisions during holiday feasts. With that said, please enter the holiday season full of excitement and joy without worrying about the masses of food you will certainly face. It is my hope that this article might peek out from the back of your mind as a small reminder to try and find the balance in your feast rather than make you want to avoid the feast altogether. A Grade Ahead believes in enrichment, and this includes enjoying life and everything it has to offer.

What is your favorite holiday treat? How do you try and maintain balance during this festive time of year? We would love to hear from you in the comments!


Author: Kyrsten O’Donnell, Teacher at A Grade Ahead


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