Diet and Health, Holidays, Uncategorized

My Holiday Food Strategy 2019

LinzerCookiesSquare1Last year during the holidays I had lost my first 35 lbs and was experiencing a small plateau. Rather than fight it too hard, I sort of made the half-assed decision to go into “maintenance mode” – where the goal is to just not GAIN any weight –  for the six weeks from Thanksgiving to January 2nd.  I say half-assed because the first few weeks was really just me being sloppy about my eating habits. But once I decided that the goal was going to be to maintain my weight during that time and just upped my intake by about 150-200 calories a day, my stress and cravings leveled out pretty well and I managed to keep some momentum going.
At the end of that six weeks, I’d lost 3 lbs. No, it wasn’t the 2 lbs a week I had been accustomed to losing, but I wasn’t going to sneeze at half a pound a week during the holidays!
When I looked back at my meal plans from that time, I see a few consistencies:
  • I kept up my water intake – at least 48 oz every day
  • I planned my alcohol intake for parties – stuck to only 2 drinks per party with water in between.
  • I did better with a basic Sunday meal planning and food prep session
  • I continued to record everything I ate every single day – including on the days I just said “F-it” and ate everything in sight.
  • At the holiday meals, I could have one serving of everything, but no seconds of anything.
So this year, my holiday strategy is going to build on those things, because apparently they worked okay last year.

Water – 

  • We don’t usually drink enough water during the wintertime because our bodies want heating up, not cooling down. So I’m going to aim for 48 oz a day (during the summer, my average is 72 oz per day), not counting cups of hot tea.

Alcohol – 

  • Between the stress or depression, the colder weather, and the parties, alcohol intake can go up a lot during the holidays – especially impulsive drinking. But we don’t usually think about the nutritionless calories it adds to our daily intake.  Recently, I’ve been adding a glass of wine after dinner to my meal plans 2-3 nights a week to unwind. I’ve found that planning the nights I’ll have it helps me regulate how often I drink, but I don’t feel like I CAN’T have it. And if I don’t feel like it that night, I can skip it.

Meal Planning and Prep – 

  • My meal planning and preps have gotten increasingly simple this fall because I’ve been creating dinners that have a lot of leftovers. I don’t mind repeat dinners during the week and it also means I won’t have to cook every night during the week, so running errands after work will be less of a big deal. I can just zap leftovers when I get home.  This means a lot of soup/stews, one-pot dinners, and low-carb casseroles on the plan.
  • Every week, I prep two different breakfasts (Yogurt and cut up fruit or overnight oats) and two different lunches (chicken breast and veg bowls or a simple sandwich) for the week. During the holidays, I’ll probably include leftovers for lunches so it is one less thing for me to prep in advance on Sundays. Stews and casseroles zap really quickly at home or at work and still gives me a comfort food hit.
  • The other meal plan/prep strategy is to plan to pick up stuff that’s mostly already prepared. Already cut fruit, pre-made salads and wraps, and frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. I’m also not above ordering a large pizza and dividing it up into zip lock bags for late night dinners. Also, I’ll be real about eating out during this time. I will probably choose two nights a week to eat out instead of one, but at places where I can make some moderately healthy choices in advance.

Recording what I Eat – 

  • I have a 545 day streak of logging my food in My Fitness Pal. If you think I’m not hitting 1000, you have another thing coming.
  • And while I’m far less stressed out about going over my calorie goals now than I was a year ago, it still helps to see when I’m having a rough week in terms of making better food choices. I can still make adjustments as I go along.

No Seconds – 

  • One serving of everything, no seconds of anything. This was just a day-of holiday meal strategy last year, but it has become more commonplace these days. Last year, I noticed that I enjoyed all of the holiday meals, but didn’t feel overstuffed or uncomfortable, which was a novelty for me. Since I avoid going back for seconds more and more these days, we’ll stick with this one again this year.


In addition to the above, I’m gonna employ a few other strategies I’ve learned this year to level up my game.
Holiday Treats – 
NO ONE likes having to watch their calories or sugars during the holidays because of all of the yummy treats.  But I’m not going to deny myself. I enjoy pie, and sweets, and fudge and cookies. So my strategy this year will be:
  • Make my favorites and plan to have a small piece every night or every other night until it is gone. And then don’t make any more. I did this last year with fudge and I found that since I could have some every night and I planned for it, I didn’t want to gorge it. I just enjoyed it a little at a time.
  • When other people offer sweets, choose to eat some ONLY if it is high-quality and among my ABSOLUTE favorites. Don’t eat the oatmeal raisin cookies just because my boss’ wife made them. Take them home. Toss them. Now, if she’s handing out Russian Tea Cakes, yes. Absolutely. Same thing with pumpkin pie. I really like pumpkin pie, but I don’t need to eat it once I’m sick of it just because it is in the fridge or on the office potluck table. Choose the sweets that are worth it and let the crappy store-bought cookies exist peacefully on their own.
Parties – 
I’m going to employ the party strategy I’ve developed this year because it has been working for me. Most of the time, I know when I’m attending a party (or two) during the holidays, so. . . .
  • Plan my week knowing that I’m going to eat what I want at the party. Add more vegetarian dinners during the week. I don’t usually eat snacks during the week, but I definitely avoid snacks if there’s a party this week. Leave a few bites behind on every dinner in the week before. Lower the general calorie intake so the party hit isn’t as big.
  • Don’t overstuff myself at the party. Yeah, this is hard. Here’s my strategy:  1 plate of savory food (or two if it is those small party plates). Choose stuff from the buffet that I know I really like, not stuff I’m meh about. One serving of dessert. Choose my fave. Two alcoholic beverages with water or club soda in between. This strategy has a few advantages. I am much more intentional about what I choose to put on that plate, so it tends to be better food. I tend to eat it more slowly and enjoy it more. I’m not stuffed and feel comfortable at the party. I get less drunk and have far less of a hangover the next day.
So that’s my holiday strategy, based on last year’s results and a few tactics I’ve learned this last year. Now that I’ve written it out, I’ll be more likely to actually do some of it!  I don’t expect perfection on this and there will undoubtedly be a bit of overindulging this season. But if I can keep 80% of my meals healthy and nutritious, I’d bet that I can not stress about the other 20% come January 2nd.
What are some of your favorite strategies for staying food-sane during the holidays?

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