It’s the most food-ful time of the year…. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got at least three work events, two daycare parties and four family gatherings penciled in for this holiday season.  That doesn’t include the many impromptu invites that are guaranteed to pop up. The holiday season is in full freakin’ swing and while I love it, it can wreak havoc on just about every facet of my life.  Rather than stress this holiday season, I am striving to make the most of it while keeping my sanity, my love for the holidays and my health intact.

And just how do I plan to survive this wonderfully insane time of year?

My best friends are my calendars.  Yes, I have a few. Don’t judge me.  The second I get an invite, it goes into one or all of them.  Sometimes none.

Tip #1: SAY NO.  You don’t need to make up an excuse.  Your mental health is your most valuable asset this time of year.  Planning for a few days with nothing to do is perfectly okay and damn well necessary to avoid making the the holidays feel not so holly jolly.  

It’s story time, who doesn’t love a good story? Here’s a hypothetical holiday scenario:

You’ve got your work soiree on Tuesday night, your kid’s school party on Wednesday afternoon (which you’ve agreed to help with) and a night of cocktails with your friends on Friday.  Let’s strategize this together, shall we?

Sunday: You agreed to bake for your kid’s party because you’re that parent.  So you should probably get to it today.  Since you’ll likely be eating most of what your kid doesn’t out of guilt, the least you can do for yourself is make something relatively healthy.  Pumpkin cranberry muffins are a great way to not only celebrate the season, but get some antioxidants and fiber into yourself and your tiny human. Make some extra for grab and go breakfasts or snacks.  This will save you that nagging question of hmmmm, what to eat?

Tip #2: Taking time to prep grab and go foods high in protein and fiber (overnight oats, yogurt parfaits, trail mix, frittatas) can help take some guesswork out of your eating routine and give you some time back to enjoy the holiday season!

Monday: Back to the work and school grind.  Pack a healthy lunch for yourself and limit your indulgences.  Get in some movement – take a brisk walk with a coworker and discuss the craziness of the season.  Make sure you’re staying hydrated today, as you have your work event tomorrow and you need to be on your game.  Get a good night’s rest. Proper sleep does wonders for your metabolism, not to mention your sanity.

Tip #3: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Hydrate! It’s crucial to keeping up your energy reserves and helps keep your gastrointestinal system in line.  You don’t want to be that guest at your next party.

Tuesday: Work parties are always stressful – what to wear, who to rub elbows with and how not to embarrass myself (errr, I mean yourself).  Usually there is a fair amount of booze flowing and hors d’oeuvres being passed around. Since you have work and your kid’s shindig tomorrow, overindulgence probably isn’t a good idea.  I typically nurse one or two drinks over the span of the party, alternating with water. If you can, eat a small meal before going to the event so you don’t show up starving and wind up overeating.  Let the appetizers pass the room once so you get an idea of what’s being served. Then pick a couple of your favorites and enjoy them. Is there a dance floor? Get your groove on between hobnobbing with the execs; win win!

Tip #4: We eat with our eyes first.  If you’re too busy dancing or chatting, your eyes won’t wander to the food.

Wednesday: Welp, just as you suspected, your kid grabbed a plateful of food and ate a whopping two bites before running off to play with his classmates.  Cue parental guilt: I can’t leave that on the plate, it’s wasteful.  Instead of scarfing it down, especially if you’re not particularly hungry, pack what’s left in a reusable container.  It may seem weird, but it would be really gross if you put back the food your tiny germ factory touched.

Tip #5: Do not let guilt push you into eating.  Emotions are already high this time of year.  Much of our eating is tied to our emotions. It takes practice to be in tune with them, but doing so will only benefit you.

Thursday: You’re just about to settle into a Netflix binge session now that the little one has finally passed out. Wine in hand, you’ve just pressed the glass to your lips when you get a text from your significant other about a last minute for a holiday brunch on Sunday.  Of course you’ll go, because well, it’s brunch. It’s the best of both the food and drink worlds. Brunch during the holiday season is a whole other level of deliciousness and I would be hard pressed to turn it down (hint, hint, friends).

Tip #6: Life is impulsive.  Your diet can certainly follow that trend during the holiday season.  Especially when brunch is involved. Splurging once in a while will not derail your healthy lifestyle.

Friday: It’s cocktail time!  Nothing makes the holiday season more fun than friends, especially friends that become family.  So when you’re at the bar and that friend who acts like your crazy uncle is pushing you to take that shot because “it’s the holidays”, you can politely decline and still be friends.  I tend to avoid hard liquor during the holidays, favoring wine spritzers or ales. But, if your holiday tradition includes a shot of Yaggermeister (like my in-laws’), make sure you drink enough water and have food in your stomach.  I’m not talking about the crappy pretzels, nuts or popcorn they may have at the bar. Those are fully salted to keep you thirsty and your tab climbing. Order a small plate of meatballs or an appetizer of guacamole and some vegetables to dip into it.

Tip #7: Choose your alcohol wisely.  Red wine is your best bet thanks to its antioxidants!  Hard liquors like vodka, have less calories, but you can sabotage yourself downing one too many.

Saturday: You made it through your week!  Today is your day to recharge and get ahead for the next week of holiday chaos.  Take a yoga class with a friend, or tour the children’s museum. If it’s snowing, get out there and build a snowman!  When you’re ready to get into the kitchen for meal prep, focus on meals that can easily be tweaked to create a variety of hearty meals.  A rotisserie chicken can be a great timesaver: salad, soup, pot pie (oh my)!

Tip #8: When you’ve earned a day of self care, take it!

No matter how you celebrate the holiday season, it’s bound to be full of gatherings around food.  With these tips, I hope you’ll be able to take advantage of every moment, planned and spontaneous.

Happy and Healthy Holidays!

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