It’s that time of year again– bags of Halloween candy sitting on the counter, Thanksgiving planning has begun and visions of holiday cookies dance in your head. As the holiday season is underway in Des Moines, you may have numerous parties with friends, family, or coworkers planned over the coming months.  The one thing these gatherings have in common is a focus around FOOD!

You may have seen headlines or read articles on ways to cut carbs or make healthy alternatives for the holidays.  I could certainly focus this article around that, but I don’t believe it to be as practical.  For many, the holidays are a time to indulge a little, and that’s OKAY just as long as you don’t get trapped in the cycle of indulgence (ceasing your workouts, eating lots of sugar, partaking in endless leftovers, etc).

The thing to keep in mind during the holidays and all year long is that changing your diet for a meal or even ONE day will not kill your eating habits.  In fact, it can reinforce your good eating habits. How?  Well, you may feel like garbage after gorging on sweets, alcohol, or a heavy meal. When you eat well and move your body most of the time, your body signals you so you know when you’re doing things wrong.

While we certainly aren’t nutritionists, in today’s post we’ll provide 3 tips that will allow you to think differently on how you approach the abundance of food you may find yourself around in the coming weeks and in the year to come.

Eat the Good Stuff First:

During parties or big holiday meals we tend to forget about the foods that are the best for us. The foods you KNOW you should have are typically the last ones you put on your plate. Instead of first reaching for the stuffing, cheesy potatoes, fried hor d’oeuvres, or desserts; try filling your plate with a helping of salad, brussel sprouts, roasted veggies, and fruit that are available. Then, add a choice of protein like turkey or ham. By taking this approach, you are filling up on the most nutrient-dense foods while leaving little room on your plate (and in your stomach) for the smaller servings of heavier items. That way, you can eat a larger amount of food for fewer calories and not feel deprived. Now, that’s a WIN!

Use the Heck YES or NO! Philosophy for Indulging:

This philosophy is Heck Yes or NO!  It can be applied to many areas of life, but for now we’ll apply it to eating.

If you’re looking to indulge in something that makes you say, “Yeah! I REALLY want that because I’ve been looking forward to enjoying it” – then it’s a YES!  Anything that’s less than that is a NO.  It sounds ridiculously simple because it is.   If you’re more analytical, you could give it a rating on a scale of 1-10.  If it’s anything lower than a 9 or 10, then it’s a NO.

For example, there’s a dessert spread at a holiday gathering with my (Dr. Megan) mom’s homemade pumpkin pie, store-bought cupcakes, brownies, apple pie, and chocolate chip cookies.  I L-O-V-E my mom’s homemade pumpkin pie and she only makes it once a year.  For me, the pumpkin pie is what I know I’d really enjoy; it’s a YES, or a 10.  The rest of it, I could certainly eat, but wouldn’t be too upset if I passed on it.

Make Family and Friends, NOT Food, your Focus:

The holidays are about giving and celebrating with those we love most. Food usually becomes the center of attention during these social situations. Remember to shift your focus on what really matters rather than making a beeline for the buffet.

During many family gatherings, there can be munchies left out to graze on in-between meals. If you sit or stand around the table with the snacks in front of you, you’re more likely to mindlessly keep eating. Get up and move around. Engage in conversation or other interests that take your mind off food. You can volunteer to wash dishes, play a family board or card game, or play with pets or the kids. This allows you to create new experiences and memories while avoiding the temptation of snacks.

Try out these 3 tips at gathering focused around food over the coming weeks and in 2018 and see if it makes a difference for you.