Ten Tips to Lighten Up Your Holiday Eating…Without Deprivation!

New-York based nutritionist Mara Feil contributes to our top tips for a no-stress start to the holiday season


Holiday TableMany holidays are soon upon us, with all their attendant joy and togetherness – and also anxiety, stress and guilt, which are often (but not exclusively!) about food.  In that spirit, we have rounded up our best tried and true advice for taking some psychodrama out of holiday feasting, living in the moment, practicing gratitude and being gentle with your body.  How grateful we are for family, friends, great food and a fitness fix to boot!

Deprivation is a set-up for failure. Starving yourself before a big meal only makes things worse once you see the smorgasbord.  Have a healthy breakfast, and enjoy it calmly at the table even on days when a big meal awaits.  You’ll be less likely to gobble up everything in sight later.

Stick with the healthy crowd:  New York-based nutritionist Mara Feil, owner of nutrition and wellness firm Stand UPP Health, recommends filling up first with 80% vegetables, salads (dressing on the side), and bean/legume-based dishes.  Then add turkey.  If you go back for seconds, you will already be pretty filled up on high water, high fiber, low-calorie foods, leaving little room for the rich, buttery, sugary, fatty sides.

Apply the 80-20 rule:  Especially during the holidays, but also all year round.  Feil suggests eating what you should 80% of the time (fruits, veggies, lean protein), and eating what you want 20% of the time.  Before you know it, your body will start craving more of the healthier options.

Eat what you like, nothing else:  Sounds like a no-brainer, but how many times do we eat things to please the chef, or because every one else is eating it, or simply because it is there?  Practice diplomacy and say “no”.

The sampler:  Like life, eating is not an all-or-nothing proposition.  Take small portions and enjoy eating a little of everything – even the sweet stuff.  Think sample platter, not major meal.

Keep moving:  If your house is full of relatives and your tennis partner is out of town for the weekend, you still don’t have to bail out on fitness. Just keep moving.  Go for a power walk.  It will clear your mind and burn calories at the same time.  A good walk is something that most anyone can do with you, young or old.

Make a date:  Right now, this very second, get your calendar out and mark the day and time you are going to exercise, preferably with friends who will actually show up.  Scheduling is 90% of the battle when it comes to “making time” for fitness.

No guilt: Whether you overdid it or not, just give yourself a break and refuse to give into defeat. Tomorrow is always a good day to start with a big cup of lemon water (great for the liver and skin) and eat veggies to get back on track.

Limit empty calories!  Enjoy a glass of wine (or two) with your meal if you want but consider alternating with water. And don’t go crazy on cocktails.  If you’re going to enjoy the calories, at least make ‘em count!

Skip dips and chips:  These will derail you before you even get to the table!  Opt for a few nuts or crudités instead.  Make a conscious effort to mingle and talk without eating at the same time.  Having some fruit or a huge glass of water before the appetizers come out is one of our favorite holiday strategies.

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