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Five Ways to Have Less Food Stress Over the Holidays



The holiday season is about gratitude and family, but it’s also about the food! Sharing meals and treats with our loved ones and using classic family recipes should be an enjoyable experience.


Unfortunately there are sometimes a lot of negative and stressful emotions that can come up around food, especially holiday food, and especially if you are dieting. Maybe you find yourself looking up how many calories are in gravy, or trying to make all your cookies dairy-sugar-gluten free. Or you find yourself skipping meals leading up to dinner and are starving when you sit down to eat. Then you end up eating too much, and feel uncomfortably full and guilty.


Today we’re going to review a few quick tips about what we can do to have a more relaxed attitude around food in the holiday season!


  1. Don’t skip meals leading up to dinner. While you may or may not want to eat a slightly smaller meal earlier in the day to save room for your favorite holiday dinner, there’s no need to starve yourself beforehand. Not eating can make us then feel extra ravenous when we sit down to eat, making it much harder to listen to our body’s fullness cues.

  2. Focus on your favorites. Not wild about eggnog? You don’t have to drink it! Instead choose the foods that you do LOVE. Remember that appetizers like cheese and crackers, or sides like bread can be eaten any time of year.

  3. This is not your last meal. The Christmas cookies will be back next year! The wonderful thing about eating is that we need to do it every day, and we get to enjoy seasonal foods year after year. Try to avoid the black and white thinking of “this food is only around during this time of year, so I have to eat ALL of it now” or “after this one meal I will be good with my diet.”

  4. Listen to your body! Feeling deprived doesn’t feel good, and neither does overeating. Take a few pauses when enjoying a meal or a treat to enjoy the company of those you are with, and leave a break between dinner and dessert. Use those moments to check in with yourself and see if you want any more to eat right then. It’s okay to save some to eat later in the day or for lunch tomorrow!

  5. Move, just move. Schedule in some movement. It’s easy to let this go during the busyness of the holidays, but it’s so good for our physical and mental health to get our bodies moving. Nothing fancy is needed, maybe prioritizing a daily walk is enough for you. Weather not looking good? You can still move inside. Turn up the music and have a dance party, try a few brief stretches, have a competition with your family as to who can do the longest wall-sit or the most push-ups. Moving together, even if it is over a video call, is much more fun than moving alone.

While the holidays may look a little different this year, these tips can still help you navigate the season and future gatherings or events. Remember that the holidays are meant to be an enjoyable experience and not a stressful one. For more information on how to navigate the holiday season with a healthy mindset, schedule a consult with a dietitian by clicking this link to our contact page!


Author: Becca Sprague, MS, RD, LD