STOP! Your Guide to Avoiding Unhealthy Holiday Food

Unhealthy foodsThe holidays are always a great time to socialize with friends and family. During these holiday get-togethers and celebrations, there’s also the inevitable overindulgence of chocolates, candy canes, and cookies. You can be the healthiest eater in the world, but if that dessert is readily at your fingertips, how can you deny its sugary goodness?

Like the common cold, unhealthy eating habits seem to be very contagious around the holidays, and cold weather also leads to warm savory drinks and comfort food. When everyone else at the party or family dinner is stuffing their faces, it only makes sense that you follow suit. Why does healthy eating go out the door during holiday time?

Well, your family and friends can have a very big impact on your own health and nutrition, according to a 2011 study in which researchers found that 36% of people believe their close friends influence their eating habits.

Since highly processed appetizers and sugary foods are often more affordable than fresh food, when you’re entertaining guests, these unhealthy treats become the options for your otherwise healthy friends.

Unless you are fully grounded in your healthy eating habits, you may succumb to the deep-fried buffet or the chocolate drizzled…well, everything.

Here are some suggestions to mindful healthy eating around the holiday season.

Eat Big Breakfasts

People often skip breakfast around the holidays, and then overeat at the party or family get-together. Eating a healthy breakfast that is high in fiber allows you to eat less later, while making healthy choices in social situations.

Eating a regular breakfast around the holiday season will allow you to successfully keep your weight off when you do consume a few sweet treats. Prepare breakfasts with high-fiber content, such as raspberries, oatmeal, or steel-cut oats. Another healthy option is to create a green smoothie, consisting of berries, almond butter, kale, spinach, and homemade nut milk.

Avoid Late Night Eating

People often don’t get the proper nutrients from the foods they’ve eaten during the day, which leads to overeating after nine p.m. When you’re at a late night holiday party, be sure to limit what you consume. It is also easier on your body if you’ve digested your food before going to bed. High protein and high carbohydrate grains generally take two to three hours to digest.

Be Assertive

Just because you are a guest in someone’s home doesn’t mean you have to consume every morsel of food they put on your plate. Focus on healthy eating and communicate with the party hosts. Don’t feel forced to continue eating just because they want to feed you.

Eat More Healthy Foods

Holiday buffet spreads usually consist of several savory, unhealthy appetizers and hors d’oeuvres upon your plate. There should also be spreads with fruits, vegetables, and possibly a salad choice—this will help you stay on the eating healthy path.

Follow the 80/20 rule here, consuming 80% true-and-tested healthy foods while only 20% for the unhealthier treats.

Be a Healthy Example

Because healthy eating is contagious, let your friends and family catch the cure. The more healthy foods you eat, the bigger the influence you will be on others. If they see more veggies piled on your plate, they might add some as well, spreading positive eating habits!

If you are entertaining and have control of the food menu, think about replacing typically fattening ingredients with healthy foods. In mashed potatoes, replace the milk and butter with homemade almond milk and vegetable broth. Also, replace your out-of-the-can green bean casserole, with lightly steamed Brussels sprouts and kale with garlic, olive oil, and spices.

When you follow these healthy eating practices, you will be more aware of what you are putting into your body, and you will scrap the unhealthy habits from friends and family members.

Nauert, R., “Family and Peers Have Big Impact on Health,” PsychCentral web site, Oct. 7, 2011;
“Healthy Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss,” Eating Well web site;
“5 Extremely Unhealthy Eating Habits to Avoid,” FitDay web site,
“12 Healthy Ways to Survive a Holiday Eating Frenzy,” BetterHealthUSA web site,