Healthy Strategies for Dieting During the Holiday Season

If you have goals you want to achieve, or simply want to maintain your weight, follow these tips to approach the holiday season in a way that works best for you and makes you feel good.

Healthy Strategies for Dieting During the Holiday Season
María Rubio María Rubio
7 min read

The holiday season is approaching us once again, and although holidays are a joyous time, they can also be a very stressful time. On top of work or school and trying to maintain your workout routine, you have to worry about gift shopping, traveling to visit loved ones, and having a full social calendar – that's a lot! All of that stress can lead to you abandoning your workout schedule or any fitness goals you're still trying to achieve or for those who already achieved them... it can lead to weight gain during the holidays! There's nothing wrong with a little weight gain (most of it can be from water retention), but if this is something you prefer to avoid then you may need to figure out ways how to maintain your weight without needing to restrict.

Fortunately, there are ways you can still enjoy the holiday season, stay on track with your goals, and maintain your weight – without needing to "diet". The key is to focus on striving to make the best choices possible and approaching the holiday season in a way that works best for you and most importantly, makes you feel good. That said, with the holidays around the corner, we put together healthy strategies you can follow that will help you stay on track while still enjoying all of your holiday favorites!

Is it okay not to diet during holidays?

Yes! While some people prefer to stick to their plan during the holidays, others may want to ease up and enjoy the holidays – neither is wrong!  Avoid feeling guilty if you want to ease up during this season because one short period of indulging a little won't ruin your months (or years) of hard work. In fact, taking it easy can help you avoid burning out and even keep you motivated in the long run!

What to do instead of dieting, but still stay on track with your goals

You want to find the right balance, so don't completely through your good habits out the window. Focus on being a little less strict, enjoy the foods you love in moderation, and try to get a few workouts in if you can!

Besides that, here are 7 healthy strategies that will help you enjoy the holiday season and stay on track with your goals...

Set up your environment for success

Whether you're having gatherings at your home or not, set up your home for success! Don't stock up on all your favorite holiday treats just because Halloween or Christmas is around the corner. Instead, keep your household as normal as possible! You'll most likely attend a lot of holiday parties or travel to a loved one's home for Christmas, or other holidays. This means you'll be out of your typical environment and put into situations that can change your eating behaviors, so you want to keep things at home normal.

You can do this by organizing your kitchen and setting it up for success. Having healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables in the home is associated with a lower daily calorie intake.[1] This doesn't mean you can't indulge in your favorite foods - we actually recommend it! But you'll have plenty of chances at holiday parties and event to enjoy them. It's safer to keep those Christmas cookies away from your home to reduce the risk of overindulging.

Look for healthier recipes of your favorite holiday foods

Set up your environment for success, but if you do want to indulge a little outside of social settings, make a healthier version of your favorite holiday foods!

Healthy food swaps are great because they help keep you on track, they are more nutrient-dense, and they help you maintain the healthy eating habits you've built on your fitness journey. Just because it's healthy doesn't mean it's not going to be tasty, in fact, it might be so good that you save your favorite recipes and start a new tradition of cooking or baking the healthier version! So, bake your favorite Christmas cookies and other holiday treats with tasty healthy baking substitutes!

Plan for parties ahead of time

Attending a company holiday party? Or gathering with friends for a Thanksgiving potluck? No matter the case, always plan ahead!! However, you don't want to deviate from your normal routine... so don't go skipping meals or reduce your carb intake to save calories. This will only increase your cravings for sugar and processed carbs, and lead to you overindulging at your outing!

Instead, mark all of the holiday events and gatherings you'll be attending, and the week of, or even the week before, plan your meals so they fit around the event. So, if you're tracking your macros (which we suggest if you have weight loss or muscle-building goals), you can easily plan and track your healthy meals, account for your outing, and still stay within your macro target range. And even if you go a little bit over your macros, it's still better than not tracking and going waaaay over the number of calories and macronutrients you should be eating.

Aside from planning your meals and tracking macros, if you're going out to a restaurant look at the menu ahead of time to plan what you'll be eating. Knowing what you'll eat beforehand will help make sure that you only eat what you planned on or tracked. And eat beforehand! We mentioned this earlier, but a lot of people like to "save on calories" by skipping a meal. If you regularly intermittent fast then this is okay, other than that, don't. We suggest eating a nutrient-dense snack or meal before your outing! Have something with sufficient protein, fat, and carbs to help keep your cravings for sugar at bay.

Make smart food choices first

Prevent overeating and triggering even more cravings by starting your holiday meal with healthy choices! Instead of reaching for the appetizers that are fried and/or made of mostly unhealthy ingredients, reach for soup, fresh veggies, or a salad. You'll be getting good nutrients in, and saving room (and calories) for your holiday meal and dessert! Doing this will automatically help limit the amount of unhealthy high-calorie foods you eat and even help control your portion sizes.

Also, remember, you can't have your cake and eat it too... meaning you can't have it all. If you want to have a healthy holiday season control your portion sizes and try to eat only the foods you want the most. Maybe your favorite part of Christmas dinner is the dessert, if that's the case, load up on mostly healthy foods during dinner to save enough room for dessert. So, you can enjoy an extra slice of pumpkin pie, or another scoop of mashed potatoes, as long as you're being mindful of your portions for the rest of your meal.

Stay active

Life gets a little busier around the holidays, so you might not be able to keep up with your usual workout routine, especially if you're working out 5-6x a week. However, you should make an effort to stay active. If you need to cut back to working out 3-4x a week then do it! Just remember to plan your workouts accordingly and stay active on your non-workout days by going on walks or meeting up with friends for outdoor activities. But whatever you do, don't try to out-exercise your diet. If you overindulged a little on some late-night eggnog and Christmas cookies, don't skip breakfast and go on a 5-mile run or intense weight training sesh to make up for it. Simply wake up, have a healthy breakfast, and continue your usual workout routine!

Now, if you have certain goals you want to hit by New Year, or you want to keep up with your workout routine... Then plan your workouts, or let One Fitness plan them for you! The One Fitness app is designed to take some stress off of you by giving you new goal-focused workouts every week and providing you a space to track your macros, progress, and so much more. Try your first workout for free - no subscription or sign-in is required. Simply download the One Fitness app, open the app, select the goal that best fits yours, and start your first workout with Iulia!

Pack your favorite healthy snacks if traveling

Traveling is common during the holidays, so if you're one of those that travel, prepare ahead and pack smart! Pack a few of your favorite healthy snacks, like nuts or a protein bar to help reduce temptations you may find on the road or on the plane. Remember, you want to be able to indulge in your favorite holiday treats and a healthy lifestyle is all about balance. So, if you want to have your cake and eat it, then prioritize healthier and nutrient-dense foods leading up to your holiday events!

Social events, especially holiday events, revolve around food... But food doesn't have to be the main star! Instead of focusing on all the delicious food that you can enjoy, focus more on socializing with your friends and family. Catching up with your loved ones will shift your focus from the food and will naturally help you gravitate towards it less. Another good tip is to offer to help clean up after! If you're at friends or family for an event, help them clean up the mess. This will get you on your feet and help you stop reaching for dessert. You can even suggest going on a nice stroll after your meal or playing a game that requires you to be on your feet!

If you're really worried about overeating and want to reduce the risk of it, then start new traditions that don't revolve around food. Instead of having a potluck with your friends, suggest a morning hike with a healthy breakfast after! It doesn't have to be a hike, but you get what we're saying – choose something active that you like and make that the main star!

Be mindful, but don't worry too much

Be aware and mindful of the food choices you make, and make sure that they are in line with your goals, but balance is key. Indulge a little, and if you happen to go a little overboard, leave the guilt behind. Guilt is a toxic emotion that can cause you to go through drastic measures to lose the weight you gained. Be kind to yourself and don't worry too much! Once the holidays are over, you can get right back to your usual routine – no undereating or overexercising necessary!

Don't sweat it and enjoy the holidays

The holidays are a very brief period, so enjoy the time that you have with your loved ones. Weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping up with healthy habits are important, but keep things balanced. Indulging a little and enjoying the holiday festivities is good for your mental health, and it even plays a healthy part in your fitness journey because you get to take a small break from your rigorous diet and workout routine.

Following the tips above to help stay in line with your goals this holiday season, but remember, if you slip up be kind to yourself and jump right back to your usual routine as soon as you can!

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