Donate Now

Tips for remaining healthy during the holidays

Dec 7, 2020 | JSY Recipe, Foodbank Blog

From Elisa Rocks, JSY Nutritionist

The holidays are an exciting time, but this year may be a little different for us all, with smaller gatherings, fewer parties, and less travel. With all the changes of 2020, maintaining our familiar holiday food traditions can be a great comfort. One not-so-great tradition that I’d love to overcome, is my tendency to overeat around the holidays. It’s so easy to mindlessly munch and no one wants to feel uncomfortably full. If you’re in the same boat, here are some tips that can help us honor our hunger while we avoid overindulging. 


Know your trigger foods
It can be tough to control portions for every food. So, focus your efforts on “trigger foods”. Trigger foods are ones that are so easy to overeat. They tend to be high in sugar or unhealthy fats. Things like muffins, donuts, bagels, fried foods, pizza, chips, sugary drinks, or desserts are common trigger foods. It’s ok to enjoy these favorites, just don’t go overboard. Keep your portions in check with the other tips below and you can indulge without regret.

Avoid becoming “hangry”
Going a long time between meals can cause us to become crazy hungry, also known as “hangry”. At this level of hunger, it’s very difficult to make healthy food choices. We seem to crave junk food and a lot of it! This is because blood sugar levels have dropped to a point where the body is in “survival-mode”, so we seek out foods with the most calories. Avoid this “hanger” by eating every four hours or so. This will enable you to feel in control and make smart food choices that support your health.


Drink water
Before your meal, pour yourself a nice, cold glass of water and drink away. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that many times people think they are hungry but they are actually thirsty. This little trick helps keep us properly hydrated so that our bodies can function at their best. Second, water helps take up space in our bellies so we eat less but still feel full and content.

Power to the plate
Researchers at Cornell University have found that using large dishes can lead to overeating. When using a larger dish, we serve ourselves more, to fill the extra space on the bigger dish. On the flip side, when using smaller dishes, we unknowingly serve and eat less food. The moral of the story – use small bowls, plates and glasses, especially when eating trigger foods! And here’s another tip. Fill half your plate with veggies and fruits, ¼ with starchy foods and ¼ with protein. It’s an easy way to eat healthy!

See less, eat less
It’s safe to say that for most people, if food is in front of us, we’re going to eat it. Just the sight of food can spark our appetite. The trick is to avoid seeing more food than we want to eat. Here’s how to do this:

  • When it comes to snacking, portion food into a bowl rather than eating out of the container. This helps you keep track of how much you’ve eaten.
  • Serve food buffet style in the kitchen, rather than on the dining table. 
  • Put leftovers away after the meal is over to avoid continuous munching.
  • Freeze extra cookies, pies or tempting treats so they don’t call to you from the cupboard.
  • Share delicious goodies with neighbors to spread holiday cheer and help avoid excess or waste at your home.

Give it time
After eating but before going for seconds, give your body a little time to process what you just ate. It takes time for our bellies to communicate with our brains and say “hey, we’re full down here, you can stop eating!”. This is why eating slowly and chewing thoroughly are so important. It gives more time for our brains time to receive that message and helps our digestion to work optimally. A win-win strategy!

End of meal cues
Certain after-meal habits can help cue us to stop eating. After mealtime, make a habit to brush your teeth, chew minty gum, drink a glass of water with lemon, tea or decaf coffee. All of these things can freshen our mouths and cue us that the meal is complete.

I hope these tips fill your toolbelt with some practical strategies so that you can enjoy those scrumptious holiday foods with no regrets! For delicious and healthy holiday recipes, join your Food Bank nutritionists on Facebook. You don’t need to have a Facebook account either! We host live cooking workshops every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. and you can browse our collection of past recipe videos!