6 Practical Tips For Eating Healthy (ish!) During The Holidays


THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.


FREE RESOURCES + CONTACT INFO:


LINKS MENTIONED IN THE EP:


THRIVE MARKET (MY FAVE!):


ROUGH TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:

Welcome to episode 5 of The Health Investment Podcast, where my goal is to help you get healthy for GOOD—without any of the BS!

I SO appreciate the kind reviews coming in over on Apple Podcasts. You’re the best, and I’m grateful that you like what I’m doing and think I’m providing you with value!

On that note…know that on Instagram, I always post one of those “question stickers” before I plan out an episode.

I tell you the topic and ask if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to discuss.

Prior to planning out this episode, I asked what you want to hear. You said better choices for alcohol and holiday food options people THINK are healthy but sneakily aren’t. So I’m gonna address both of those questions at some point in today’s episode!

If you don’t already, follow me on Instagram—@thehealthinvestment—so that you can chime in when I post a “question sticker” about future topics!

Alright, the holidays are QUICKLY approaching—I can’t believe Thanksgiving is on Thursday!—so without further ado, let’s chat about how to eat healthy (ish!) during these months that can sometimes throw us completely off the rails!

EATING HEALTHY DURING THE HOLIDAYS

I don’t know about you, but I used to enter into every January feeling suuuuper gross.

Once Thanksgiving hit, I really went nuts. I threw all rules out the window and binged on pastries, wine, cheese, pie…you know the stuff.

But I always left the holiday season 10+ pounds heavier, feeling guilty and remorseful about everything I’d consumed. 

Now, I’ve figured out how to ENJOY Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and alllll of the fun parties in between—without going crazy. Sure, I may still gain 5 or so pounds, but that doesn’t bother me anymore because I don’t FEEL as terrible as I used to.

And that’s really what I’m concerned about: how I FEEL. Since I’m used to feeling energized, light, confident in my skin, and just all-around awesome, I don’t like letting food or alcohol hold me back from those incredible feelings. 

Whenever I overindulge, I connect the dots. My listlessness and stomach ache didn’t come out of nowhere, so what was the cause? 

Now that I’ve identified the culprits—which are probably culprits for you, as well!—I can truly enjoy the holidays without FEELING gross. And that’s what it’s all about, right? 

So here’s how I do it…

TIP #1: MAKE HEALTHY-ISH SWAPS.

I don’t like to cut out entire food categories.

If I tell myself I’m gonna go to a party but I *can’t* eat any crackers or drink any wine, ew. That doesn’t sound like any fun at all! 

I hate entering into a situation where I’m depriving myself of something. So I don’t do that anymore. But I also hate feeling bloated, puffy, and gross, like I said, so that’s where healthy-ish swaps come in.

Generally, refined grains (even whole wheat ones!) and refined sugar make us all feel blah.

Refined grains and refined sugar are energy zappers. 

So, whenever possible, I like to make simple swaps for healthier alternatives. 

I could talk for 45 minutes about this one topic, but I’ll spare you and just send you to a list of 75 simple swaps for things you probably LOVE if you’re anything like me.

I call this “The Ultimate Healthy Grocery List,” because the items on the list are healthier than the conventional brands and products we’re used to buying.

So, for example, instead of adding wheat thins to the cheese board, I’ll add Mary’s Gone Crackers. Mary’s crackers are made with seeds—not flour—so I feel much better when I eat them.

Speaking of cheese boards…did you know that cow’s milk contains a protein that goat and sheep milk doesn’t contain? Cow’s milk has both an A-1 and A-2 beta casein (don’t worry about the lingo); goat and sheep’s milk only has the A-2 beta casein. 

Some people who THINK they’re allergic to lactose may actually be having a negative reaction to the A-1 casein in cow’s milk. 

I’m definitely not full-fledged lactose intolerant, but my digestion and skin are both better when I don’t eat dairy. This may be the case for you, as well. A lot of people feel better and experience fewer breakouts after cutting out dairy.

That being said, I’m not ready to give up cheese. I ADORE CHEESE. So I make a simple swap: I generally eat goat/sheep milk cheese rather than cow’s milk cheese, and in doing so I’ve definitely experienced positive effects.

So if I were making a cheese board, by adding Mary’s crackers and goat/sheep cheese, I’d already be setting myself—and other people at the party!—up for success.

Like I said, there are 75 simple swaps in “The Ultimate Healthy Grocery List

Each item in the list is free from:

  • Refined seed oils, or “vegetable” oils
  • Refined grains
  • Gluten
  • Lots of sugar (most of the items have fewer than 5g sugar/serving)
  • Refined sugar
  • Artificial and “natural” flavors
  • Binding agents, colorants, dyes, and preservatives

Refined grains and refined sugar aren’t doing us any favors. But “vegetable” oils, gluten, super sugary things, artificial flavors, binding agents, colorants, dyes, and preservatives also make us feel gross. And I don’t want to feel gross! I want to feel great!

When I make the 75 swaps found in the grocery list, I feel great. And I look great, too!

(But again—I’m always more concerned about how I FEEL. When you focus on eating things that nourish you and help you to feel your best, you’ll also look amazing! So focusing on how different foods/drinks make you FEEL and consuming the ones that make you FEEL incredible is a win-win. Any of the extra pounds you’ve been struggling to lose will likely melt off when you take this approach.)

If you follow me  to put up a little “question sticker” on Instagram before I plan out an episode to see which questions YOU have. Yes, I’m the one doing all of the talking right now, but I’m doing it for YOU—to help YOU figure out what ACTUALLY works for simple weight loss & sustainable wellness.

Soooo, it’s obviously helpful when I find out which questions you have.

MY RESPONSE TO YOUR QUESTION, “WHAT ARE THE BEST ALCOHOL CHOICES?” 

The sad reality is this: alcohol doesn’t do our health any favors.

Yes, some studies suggest that red wine can be beneficial for heart health, and some groups of people who live the longest consume wine daily.

BUT other studies suggest that ALL alcohol—even red wine—negatively impacts our health.

I reeeeeally enjoy wine, margaritas, and dirty martinis. So, at this point in my life, I’m not gonna give ‘em up! 

That being said, there are healthier swaps for your favorite alcoholic beverages. (Notice I said “healthier,” not “healthy”—remember the disclaimer “ish” in the episode title! If I were recommending that you cut out ALL refined sugar, refined grains, and alcohol, that’d certainly be a very healthy holiday season. But I want to enjoy the holidays and not stress too much about what I’m eating/drinking…hence the “ish”!)

When it comes to wine and cocktails, I keep two words in mind: sugar and additives.

I try to avoid both.

I mentioned I love margaritas. BUT margaritas generally have a lot of sugar in them. So instead, I’ll order a tequila + seltzer + fresh squeezed lime juice in a glass with a salted rim. This is essentially a “skinny margarita,” so if you’re at a Mexican restaurant you can usually just say that and get your point across. If you’re at an Italian restaurant and you say “skinny margarita,” it may get lost in translation. That’s why the tequila + seltzer + lime juice route is usually best.

I also love dirty martinis. In a dirty martini, there’s just vodka, vermouth, olive juice, and olives—no sugar or weird additives.

Speaking of weird additives…I’ve come to ADORE natural wine. 

A lot of wines now get lumped under the “natural” category because these additive-free vinos are really having a moment. 

But really, organic, biodynamic, and natural wines are all a bit different. Natural and biodynamic wines are “cleaner” than organic wines, but organic wines are “cleaner” than traditional varieties. There’s a continuum.

To read more about this continuum of traditional, organic, biodynamic, and natural wines, click here. I also plan to interview a natural wine expert on this podcast, so stay tuned!

If you’re a wine drinker like me, be on the lookout for these “cleaner” versions that are free from pesticides, added sulfites, and other additives (like a colorant called “Mega Purple.” Again, click here to read more about this!)

Since organic, biodynamic, and natural wines are entering the spotlight, they’re becoming more widely available. You can ‘em at places like Trader Joe’s and Costco; just ask someone who works there to point you in the right direction.

If you’re living in a natural wine desert, meaning you can’t seem to find it anywhere, consider placing an order through Thrive Market. Thrive sells cases of natural wine at great prices—and they’ll deliver right to your door!

When you have drinks at holiday parties—and elsewhere!—just keep those two words in mind: sugar and additives. Avoid both at all costs and you’ll really clean up your alcohol game!

Okay, that was A LOT on the topic of simple swaps. As I said, I could go on and on and on—and I did in that freebie by listing 75 different swaps you can make—so be sure to claim it in order to figure out other ways you can make your holidays a tad healthier without cutting out complete categories of food and beverages.

TIP #2: DON’T SHOW UP AT ANY HOLIDAY PARTY DEHYDRATED AND/OR FAMISHED.

You know how some people don’t eat the entire morning/afternoon before Thanksgiving dinner and then go absolutely nuts once it arrives because they’re so ravenous?

Yeah, I used to be that person. And I always felt TERRIBLY full—and all-around TERRIBLE—afterwards. It was awful.

Then, I started treating Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner like any other meal. On a regular day, I’d eat something BEFORE dinner—so that’s what I do on those days!

And I’m also cautious to stay very hydrated before any big meal because dehydration masks itself as hunger. Often, you’re not ACTUALLY hungry—you’re just thirsty!

I still probably eat more on Thanksgiving and Christmas than I do on a regular Tuesday, BUT I don’t eat until I’ve passed the point of no return when I follow this tip. 

One thing that’s great to eat before a huge meal is a handful of dry-roasted nuts. Nuts are fatty and nutrient-dense; eating healthy fats and nutrients before a big meal sends a signal to your brain that you’re NOT actually starving. Try it!

TIP #3: DITCH THE ALL-OR-NOTHING MINDSET.

I’m gonna eat a piece of pie at some point in the holiday season. And I’ll probably also have some cookies here or there because chocolate chip cookies are my FAVORITE!

But here’s the thing: that once piece of pie? That cookie? Neither means I need to do one of two things:

  1. Snap into “guilt” mode and restrict myself until I can restrict no longer, which will likely lead to a binge.
  2. Decide, “Welp, I had ONE cookie, so I guess I ruined my healthy eating plan for the entire day.”

Both of these reactions to eating something sweet—and delicious!—fall into the “all-or-nothing” mindset. 

A little secret? That mindset DOESN’T WORK.

Balance, a gray area—whatever you wanna call it!—is absolutely necessary if you’re after long-term results. (And, since you’re listening to this podcast, I’m assuming you are!)

So instead of beating yourself up over the piece of pumpkin pie, enjoy the heck out of it. But also realize that it’ll probably cause a sugar high, followed by a crash, followed by feelings of overall exhaustion/malaise.

Pumpkin pie doesn’t make you feel your best—and that’s what we’re after!

I used to eat pumpkin pie for dessert on Thanksgiving and then for breakfast (and maybe even with lunch?) the next day, but now that I’m razor focused on the FEELINGS different foods give me, it’s not as appealing to eat as much of the foods that don’t make me feel great.

(I know I’ve mentioned that a lot in this episode, but it’s really so, SO true. I don’t know a single person who wants to feel crappy all of the time, especially during the holidays when you’re spending so much time with close friends and family! So reeeeeally pay attention to how foods make you feel. Is the 30 seconds you spend tasting the delicious pie really worth the gross-ness you’ll feel 3 hours later? Sometimes it is! But for me, it’s not worth it day after day.)

Another idea you can entertain when ditching the all-or-nothing approach is that it matters more what you eat between January and November, not what you eat between November and January.

How good is that? I didn’t make that up—my favorite celebrity fitness trainer Vinnie Tortorich says that—but I just love it so so much.

It goes back to the idea of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. That one piece of pie doesn’t matter in the long run. So we should never get hung up on the treats we eat every now and then.

It’s eating pumpkin pie the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that that’ll make you feel crappy. BUT even if that IS the case, eating more delicious treats during the holiday season isn’t going to sabotage your health forever. 

The more power you give food, the more power it has over you. So the more you stress about any one thing you ate, and the more you spiral into feelings of guilt because of it, or into a binge because of it, that’s what’s really going to affect you negatively. It’s not about the pie, it’s about your mindset. 

At the start of this episode, I mentioned that I’m gonna address both of the questions I got on Insta about the topic of eating healthy during the holidays.

MY RESPONSE TO YOUR OTHER QUESTION, “WHAT ARE FOOD/DRINK OPTIONS THAT PEOPLE THINK ARE HEALTHY BUT REALLY AREN’T…AND VICE VERSA?”

I think that question fits in well at this point, really, if you make healthier swaps where you can, if you don’t show up to any dinner or event dehydrated/famished, and if you don’t take an “all-or-nothing” approach, it shouldn’t really matter if you’re eating things that you ordinarily wouldn’t because they don’t get the “healthy” label. 

I know I eat more sugar and gluten during the holiday season than I normally do, and I don’t consider either of those things healthy, but I also don’t consider a mindset of restriction to be healthy. You know what I mean?

I may be rambling a bit right now, but the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole of naming some holiday foods as “good” and some as “bad” because that sucks the fun and enjoyment out of this special time of year. 

If you’re eating cake, you know it’s not as healthy as a carrot…right? (No, I’m sorry—even carrot cake isn’t as healthy as a carrot!) But who cares! It’s delicious and it’s a rare treat and as long as you don’t replace the word “rare” with “everyday”—as long as you tolerate gluten and aren’t eating carrot cake every DAY—you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

TIP #4: YOUR FOOD ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE, SO SLOOOOOW DOOOOOWN.

Okay, this one may be a bit of a lie, especially if you’re from a big family or if you married into a big family like I did. (My husband has 6 siblings, 5 of which are brothers!)

If either of those situations is the case for you, your food MIGHT be going somewhere. But hopefully once it’s on your plate, you can lay claim to it.

Which means you can eat slooooowly. 

The slower you eat, the more time you give your body to digest. And the more you get to appreciate the delicious things you’re eating, which you may only eat once a year! 

The more time your body has to digest, the fuller you’ll feel. Which means that the slower you eat, the more likely you’ll be to discover that you’re not hungry anymore and STOP eating BEFORE you hit that miserable overstuffed feeling. (You know the one I’m talkin’ about—there are few feelings worse than that!)

The best way I’ve found to eat more slowly is to put my silverware DOWN between bites. My grandma always did this, and grandmas always know best.

Once you try it, you’ll see that it really works. Don’t pick up your utensils until you’ve finished (thoroughly!) chewing the bite in your mouth.

Admittedly, I don’t do this ALL of the time. But when I do, the difference in my digestion and overall enjoyment of the meal is astounding. It reeeeeally works! I promise!

Another point related to this tip is to pause a bit before getting seconds. All of the food in the kitchen will still be there—likely for days and daaaaays of leftovers. It’s not going anywhere!

So, when you’ve finished your first plate (after eating super slowly and letting your body go through the process of proper digestion, right??), enjoy the company you’re with and the conversation at the table before rushing to get more.

Also, during this pause, decide which dish—or dishes—was your favorite. If your aunt’s focaccia stuffing was absolutely TO DIE FOR, get a little more of that. You don’t have to get seconds of EVERYTHING!

Finally, you know what else isn’t going anywhere? All of the pre-dinner dips and chips and cheeses and appetizers. If you hover around the snack table, you’re probably gonna mindlessly eat snacks and fill up BEFORE dinner is even served. 

I learned this lesson the hard way—I know I’m a sucker for a great cheese board, but I also know that if I stand RIGHT NEXT TO the board I’m going to eat so much of it that I’ll feel that terrible “I’m-so-stuffed-that-I-feel-like-I’m-going-to-explode” feeling later on.

Now, I just tell myself, “X isn’t going anywhere,” and I enjoy the company I’m with and the food I’m eating so much more. And I DON’T get to the point where I feel numbingly full. This tip leads to another win-win!

TIP #5: LOAD UP ON VEGGIES.

Whenever possible, opt for veggies. During the holidays. During life. Just always.

Veggies are the freaking best, so you should center your diet around them. Eat all types. Eat all colors. Try new ones.

Eat veggies with abandon!

I keep coming back to that cheese board (honestly, I’ve met few things I love more than a cheese board, so that’s probably why!)…

Maybe there’s also a tray of veggies and hummus. EAT THE VEGGIES. If you eat more carrots and celery sticks than crackers and chips, you’ll give your body sooooo much more nutrition. Nutrients make your body HAPPY and they help you to feel SATISFIED.

Traditional crackers and chips are usually void of nutrients, which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them, it just means that the more you’re able to add super nutritious things—like veggies!—the less hungry you’ll be for nutrient-poor snacks that won’t fill you up and will probably just make you hungrier.

The same tip applies to the actual meal. If you eat more green beans than you do stuffing, you’re likely gonna feel 10x better later that night and the next day! 

Finally…

TIP #6: PRIORITIZE SLEEP & MANAGE STRESS.

The holidays can be A LOT. There are gifts to wrap, errands to run, family members to pick up from the airport…at any point in time, you may be trying to juggle a dozen different tasks.

Because of this, you may feel more stressed than usual. And your stress level may affect your sleep.

Well, guess what?

Fatigue causes increased hunger.

And stress ramps up your cravings.

Just being aware of these two realities can help. Going back to tip 5…if you keep a lot of pre-washed, pre-cut veggies on hand, those can be great to grab if you’re feeling extra fatigued, stressed, and HUNGRY!

But ultimately, you want to prioritize high-quality sleep and manage your stress.

One way to do this is to carve out some time for exercise you enjoy. (Key words there: “you enjoy”—the holidays are not the time to add exercise you HATE to your to do list! And, I’d argue you should never do exercise you hate. The best exercise is the type you actually LIKE to do!!)

Moving your body regularly will not only help you manage your stress; it’ll help you sleep better!

Another idea is to download a meditation app and use it for 5-10ish minutes a day. There are tons of meditation apps out there, but I’ve heard that Oak is a really great one because 1) it’s free and 2) it’s simple to use.

If a meditation app isn’t your thing, you can get into the habit of box breathing—my personal favorite!—every so often.

To “box breathe,” you just inhale, hold your breath, exhale, and pause before the next inhale for a certain number of seconds. I usually do 4 seconds. So I inhale for 4 counts, hold my breath for 4, exhale for 4, and pause for 4 (before taking my next breath). You can do this anywhere, anytime, without an app! (One great place to do it would be in the parking garage at the mall—because what’s worse than being at the mall when everyone is in a frenzy after Thanksgiving or before Christmas?!)

When it comes to prioritizing sleep…it’s pretty basic. You’ve just gotta put yourself to bed, which may mean turning off the Hallmark channel before another Christmas movie comes on!

It’s never easy to say no to fun in order to sleep, but your body will THANK YOU. Just do it!

Alright, there you have it! 

To summarize, the 6 practical tips for eating (and drinking!) healthy during the holidays are:

  1. Make healthy (ish!) swaps whenever possible.
  2. Don’t show up at any holiday party dehydrated and/or famished.
  3. Ditch the all-or-nothing mindset.
  4. Your food isn’t going anywhere, so sloooooow dooooown.
  5. Load up on veggies.
  6. Prioritize sleep and manage stress.

If one or more of these tips particularly stood out to you, be sure to let me know! I’m active on Instagram (@thehealthinvestment), so slide into my DMs!! It’s always great to hear what resonates with you.

Thanksgiving is SO CLOSE! I wish you the best day, hopefully filled with family, maybe some football, and definitely a piece of pie!!

See ya next time!


⇒ To optimize every aspect of your health, visit My Favorite Things! There, you’ll find links to healthy packaged foods, toxin-free products, and overall wellness boosters.

⇒ Did you LOVE this episode? Click the icons below this image to share it with the world!

Picture of people eating a big meal below title - 6 Practical Tips For Eating Healthy (ish!) During The Holidays