Friendsgiving + Thoughts on Holiday Eating

Quinn loved his first Friendsgiving!

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Our friends Mike and Erin hosted the second annual Friendsgiving for our hometown crew. They recently purchased a new house, so the event doubled as a housewarming party too!

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The food spread was incredible. Mike and Erin cooked the turkey (as well as some other dishes, including a Merlot gravy – hello) and everyone else pitched in with a dish or two.

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Mal and I brought cookies and a special treat for dessert…

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Dark chocolate shot glasses + pinot noir (it was really sweet) and Bailey’s! Holy yum!

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We also brought Ninja Turtle ornaments for everyone! (I made them at a craft night with some girlfriends last weekend. I saw the idea on Pinterest and knew our hometown friends would love them… and they did!)

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We brought our Pack ”˜N’ Play and hoped Quinn would sleep after dinner, but with all of the commotion and new surroundings, it was a no-go, so we took our tired, sweet boy home and put him to bed.

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Isn’t his outfit adorable?! (Our friends bought it at Giggles.)

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Last week, I received a few emails from readers asking me how I deal with holiday eating and whether I had any advice for them. I thought it would make an interesting topic on CNC, so I decided to reply in this post.

Ok, so I’ve written all sorts of posts about holiday eating for Health.com over the years. Here are a few of my favorites:

Obviously, these posts are written for a certain type of audience with tips and tricks to help one navigate the holiday season when it comes to their eating habits. The suggestions I make in these pieces are things I do a lot of the time, but not every time I go to a holiday event. That said, here are some of my go-tos:

Think small

If I know there’s going to be an amazing spread of high-calorie foods, like indulgent appetizers or desserts, at a holiday party, I help myself to small portions of them. This way, I’m not missing out on any of my favorite foods, but it still prevents me from overeating. I often choose a small plate or bowl to help downsize my portions.

Be selective
When it comes to higher-calorie party food, I choose wisely and select the foods I want most, especially the once-a-year favorites, like homemade stuffing and frosted sugar cookies. I love dessert and have a major sweet tooth, so I’ll typically skip appetizers, especially if they’re the same old-same old chips and dip or cheese and crackers, and wait for the dessert spread at the end of the night. The key is not to waste my calories on foods I don’t love, so I can enjoy what I really want.

Focus on the experience

Rather than obsess over the food at holiday get-togethers, I focus my attention on the entire experience, including the once-a-year sights, sounds, and people at the event. Instead of chowing down the festive foods, I enjoy the holiday for what it is: quality time with family and friends.

Eat enough during the day

I’ve noticed that if I don’t eat substantial meals before a holiday event, I usually end up overdoing it in the calorie department because I haven’t eaten all day. Now I make sure that I eat enough during the day, so I can control my cravings when I am faced with all of those delicious food options.

Use a plate
At parties, my go-to trick for keeping calories in check is preparing a small plate of food instead of snacking all night. The plate provides me with a visual aid of how much I am eating, so I don’t lose track of small bites here and there. Plus, I can always go back for a refill if I’m still hungry.

Try not to be too hard on myself.

I know that a single slip up isn’t going to cause me to gain weight, but if I do overdo it at a holiday party, I don’t get down on myself. I just make sure to get back on track at the very next meal I eat.

Even though we’re talking about the holiday season, I keep these things in mind all year around. They’ve become habits over time, so I actually don’t change my eating habits all that much at different times of the year. I eat normally (regular meals, snacks), but then I allow myself a splurge or two when a festive occasion arises””a second glass of wine, a piece of cake (preferably from the corner where there is a lot of frosting). I figure if I eat mostly healthy (I aim for 80/20 or 70/30), a splurge or two isn’t going to derail my efforts. The holidays (and social events, in general) are all about eating, drinking, and being merry, so I don’t overthink what I am eating and just enjoy myself. For me, as cliché as it may sound, it’s all about balance. And, in the words of Bethenny Frankel, “you can have it all, just not all at once,” which is so true for me.

Question of the Day

What are your thoughts on holiday eating?

42 Comments

  1. I love the think small concept–I usually want so much of one thing that I end up eating only that but then later I see something else I want. I’m trying to survey the entire row before diving in! 🙂

  2. LOVE those ninja turtle ornaments! I was a huge fan, but I’m also pregnant with my second son and I think we need a set. Obviously. Lol. A+ for effort on bringing the pack n play. My son would never sleep at a party either except for the first 3 months or so.

  3. I say you can have it all, just not at once. So if you want the pie, skip the cheese. When you focus one one really good food or drink it is more enjoyable than stuffing everything in sight in your mouth. Despite how fun that may sound!

  4. Everything in moderation! I don’t want to limit myself to things because then I know I will just splurge on other things but if you take everything in moderation you should be in the clear!

  5. I love these tips! Also, I never feel like I have to eat every bite on my plate. For example, I love pie, but I do not care for the lots of crust on the top so I leave it. I figure leaving that crust saves calories and I do not like it anyway. I also try to load up on the protien, like turkey!

  6. Um, those TMNT ornaments are everything…. My thought on holiday eating or to relax and stay the course–I just wrote two posts–one on control and balance, the other on willpower–and in short, I don’t think that you have to give in to everything, nor do you have to restrict everything. Think of nutrition as a past–stray only as far as you can still get yourself back to it.

  7. When it comes to holiday eating, I agree that it’s all about eating enough (and eating well) BEFORE a festive event. If I know I’m heading to a holiday cocktail party where just small bites and desserts will be served, I eat a light dinner right before. (Filling roasted veggies and grains do the trick- I love roasted sweet potato slices over quinoa!) I often offer to bring a healthy-ish snack like veggies, homemade hummus and toasted pita chips.

  8. Looks like a fun party!
    I enjoy a few holiday treats because they are once a year treats. I’d rather enjoy a few and not stress about it! I figure that as long as I keep up with my overall healthy eating and exercise routine, it all balances out in the end.

  9. my thoughts on holiday eating are to make sure you move a little each day, indulge in what you want, try not to be excessive, be careful on “seconds,” and most importantly ENJOY!

  10. I think people are too hard on themselves about holiday eating and it often leads to overeating because they’re not “letting” themselves have what they want but eating it anyway. Being more accepting and loosening up makes for a happier holiday season where we don’t have to think about food/weight etc.

    Looks like a really fun and delicious time with friends!

  11. Aaaahhh!!! My nephew is going to freak out over the ninja turtle ornaments!

    Great thoughts on holiday eating. Some things I do are to pack healthy snacks for the rest of the day. We spend all of Christmas day at my husband’s grandmother’s. If I don’t bring healthy snacks, I am stuck with holiday food ALL DAY LONG.

    Also, after I have my indulgence, I always have black coffee. I love it and it’s an appetite suppressant. 🙂

  12. The ninja turtle ornaments are super cute! When it comes to holiday eating, I try to have a little bit of everything (smaller portions). I also say no to treats and food that I don’t like as much to save the calories for something I love!

  13. At a party on Saturday, I randomly ended up in the group right next to the food table. It was nearly catastrophic until I realized I would have to physically remove myself. I went into the garage to talk to people and instantly felt better. It definitely helps me if I don’t see the food. It was an easy enough change, but I can’t really express the vast amount of relief it brought just to step away from the table. “Out of sight, out of mind” is going to become my go-to method from now on.

  14. I use alot of these tips as well. I know better than to deprive myself of something, at some point I’ll break and then eat 10 cookies or something. I’d rather have the things I can only get once a year and enjoy them than waste the calories on something I can have anytime. Friendsgiving looks fun!

  15. I think you need to know what your triggers are and what foods you have a tendency to go overboard with. Me for example I can’t be around chips. I will just eat the entire bowl. But because I know that about myself I know to stay away from them because even rating just one its all over.

  16. Those Ninja Turtles ornaments are FANTASTIC! I have a few friends that would go crazy for those!

    But when it comes to the holidays (and life in general), it’s all about moderation for me and making sure that I’m continuing to stay active to avoid any major problems. As long as I don’t go totally overboard and keep working out, I’m usually OK once the holidays are over.

  17. Those ornaments are so cute! And look easy enough if you have a hot glue gun.. that’s my kind of craft 🙂

    As for holiday parties, I try to limit my alcohol. After a drink or two most of my healthy eating goals go out the window.

  18. Looks like a great Friendsgiving! I would have to agree with you. I maintain balance in my eating year round so that I’m less likely to splurge or go crazy this time of year. I don’t believe in restricting or cutting food groups out unless there is an allergy or sensitivity because you will just want it more. I really like the tips you posted and practice a lot of those around this time of year too.

  19. I like your holiday-food mindset. I’ve tried the whole eat “perfectly” ALL the time thing and it’s just not fun. Plus it eventually leads me to emotionally eating an entire pie in one sitting. I’ve found that when I’m not as hard on myself, I look and feel my best.

  20. Great tips! I like to scan all of the food options before making my selections. That way I can balance my choices and not fill up on the things I’m not as excited about. Love those dark chocolate shot glasses!! What a great idea 🙂

  21. Hi Tina! Good tips, I basically follow exactly this. I also try not to stand near the food table the whole night, which is easier said than done if everyone else is there. Glad you had fun, even though you had to end the night early.

  22. These are some great tips, Tina! And oh my, those dark chocolate shot glasses filled with Bailey’s!!! I just finished with my more “adult” Christmas parties, otherwise I would get some! Maybe next year! Or New Year’s… 😉

  23. I like to have a small portion of each thing I really want to eat. I try to keep it balanced, and may have a bit more of an item if it’s healthier. I’m not afraid to indulge around the holidays, though, and just try to balance it out by being more active and eating healthier breakfasts and lunches!

  24. My favorite tips for healthy holiday eating are:
    – to bounce back from “mistakes” (just make your next choice a healthy one if you feel like you’ve over-indulged)
    – to budget for treats – like you said about being selective, but even a bit farther, like making lunch lighter if you know there’s a cookie buffet awaiting you later at night
    – to eat at home as much as possible and save the restaurant meals for the fun gatherings instead of just convenience snacks
    – to get in at least 10 minutes of activity every day. (not an eating trick? sure it is – if you make your fitness an ongoing commitment, you won’t want to junk up your temple with fruitcake that you don’t even enjoy.)

    I shared all these tips and more with my personal training clients in my holiday survival guide and so far none of them have gained any holiday pounds! Most of them have even continued to lose 🙂 🙂

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