5 Healthy Holiday Hacks to Keep Your Diet on Track All Season

5 Healthy Holiday Hacks to Keep Your Diet on Track All Season

No matter what holidays you and your family celebrate in the last two months of the year, it is basically guaranteed that every single one of them involves copious amounts of food. Good food. Comfort food on steroids.

Know that this is actually something to complain about. Especially when you're a student, good food is hard to come by, but it does pose a problem to one specific aspect of our lives: our diet. Nothing throws off your clean eating streak like a plate of fresh cookies and a couple plates worth of candied yams and your aunt's homemade pecan pie. Here are a few simple tricks to save you from the worst of the holiday's diet damages!

1: BYOB - Bring Your Own Brownies

Now, I recognize that brownies aren't exactly a festive treat, but I needed something that started with "b," so just bear with me here. This applies to basically any dish that is a huge love of yours come the holiday season. Chances are pretty high that the original recipe for your mom’s famous gingerbread is less than appealing to your (totally fake) dietitian. So what is the answer? Make your own! There are plenty of online sites and blogs with loads of healthy (or at least healthier) versions of almost every classic dish you can think of. The general idea is that you make whatever dish you know is your weakness at holiday parties, and that way you can still cave into the craving without it being quite as detrimental as it could've been otherwise.

2: Remember: Going to a Party Does NOT Mean You Have to Overeat

We've all fallen victim to the party mindset. Everyone is munching on something, everyone is eating something, hors d'oeuvres are everywhere and it can be far too easy to just. Keep. Eating. You might not even realize how much you're eating until the next day, when the bloat sets in!

An easy way to avoid this is to look at this party like a little work luncheon or something. Sure, there's a lot of food. But you only have one ticket, and you can only go through the line once. So grab a plate. Get the snacks you want, and after you finish them, throw the plate away. You're done. You've eaten a healthy amount, and guess what? You'll still have loads of fun!

3: Use Smaller Plates

This one is classic, and is especially helpful at a gathering where there's a few too many comfort foods and not quite enough greens. We all know that food is delicious, and it can be really hard to restrain yourself, especially when you have this enormous dinner plate to pile as high as you want! So, to avoid the empty-looking plate dilemma, grab a dessert plate instead, and fill THAT heaping. You'll still feel like you've treated yourself without actually over-eating. And if you go back for seconds (or thirds) you won’t be consuming nearly as much food! 

4: Respect the Pie Chart, Not the Pie

It's easy to fill your entire plate with mashed potatoes, casseroles, rolls, and whatever else you find, and leave only a sliver for a handful of brussel sprouts, but if you're looking to keep your diet "balanced" (it is the holidays, after all) that's certainly not the standard you want to be following.

Think back to that classic pie chart demonstrating how you should fill your plate. Half of your plate should be fruits or vegetables (or both). Keep it healthy. Roughly a quarter should be protein, and the other quarter should be grains. Following that example will ensure that you're still filling yourself up with what you NEED, on top of your grandma's classic corn bread!

5: Eat Slowly

This one will save you a lot of hassle, and also solves the problem of peer-pressure eating. Haven't heard of it? That's because I made it up, mostly. Basically, it's that weird thing in our brains that says "They’re eating; you have to eat, too!”. It's a real problem.

The key to avoiding over-eating while still eating with your friends? Eat reallyyyy slowly. My mom used to say that you should chew every bite at least 10 times before you even consider swallowing. That's a good trick. Also, never refill your fork until after you've swallowed. That way you're not just shoveling food into your mouth. Take smaller forkfuls or smaller bites if it's finger food. A few small changes in how fast and how much food you're eating can make a huge difference in how long it takes to eat a plate of food At the end of the night, you'll have only eaten a little, but as far as anyone else is concerned, you were eating the whooooole time.

So there you have it - five tricks to keep you from feeling like the stuffed turkey your mom made. And remember: one or two days of bad eating won’t throw off your whole diet. In fact, it'll only affect you for a day (tops!) so get out there and enjoy the holidays! They only come once a year, after all!

Related: 12 Tips for Being a Guest in Someone’s Home for the Holidays