Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to have a freakin’ ammmazing time at a holiday party…without needing to overdo it on the booze or the sugar cookies? Or to have a BUNCH of family coming to visit and tons of presents you still need to buy and an overflowing social calendar…but still feel super energized, healthy and positive?
I know I have…especially back when I would go soooo overboard on the sweets and the socializing and holiday rush, and then I’d end up feeling more sick, stressed and low during the holidays than holly-jolly-spirited.
But all that changed a few years ago when I realized just how much the crappy festive food I was eating was messing with my emotional wellness.
You see, your mind and body are kinda like Santa and his elves. If Santa ain’t happy, his elves ain’t happy…and if your body ain’t happy with all the stress and crap you’re feeding it, your mind won’t be feelin’ the holiday joy either.
And when you aren’t feeling well – physically, emotionally or both! – dealing with other stressors of the holidays, like difficult family members, tons of travel and icky winter weather, gets a whooole lot harder.
That’s why, this year, I’m sharing exactly how I eat my way to staying healthy during the holidays – and how you can too!
In fact, today’s blog post breaks down seven rules you can use to give your diet a festive facelift. And don’t worry – the seven rules I’m sharing below will still let you have one hell of a fabuuuulous holiday season. BUT, they’ll also make sure you stay healthy and balanced in body and mind.
So let’s dive right in. Here are seven dietary rules that can help you stay healthy during the holidays, no matter how crazy life gets!
1. Fill your plate with clean, lean protein.
Have you ever promised yourself you’re only going to try one of the desserts at the party…but before you know it, you’ve eaten what feels like the whoooole buffet? Well, the easiest way to crank DOWN your sugar cravings is to UP the amount of protein you’re eating!
Now, when I say “up your protein,” I don’t mean surviving off of beans and grilled chicken breasts. Just aim to eat one to two servings of protein with every meal. For women, a serving is 4 to 6 ounces. For fellas, it’s 6 to 8 ounces.
And you can get creative with your protein sources, too! Some of my absolute favvvorite lean proteins include:
- Wild Salmon
- Grass-Fed Beef
- Wild Scallops
- Grass-fed Lamb
- Pastured Organic Chicken Breast
- Flaxseed or Chia Seeds
- Pasteurized eggs (as long as you don’t have a sensitivity to them)
Even if you only had these nine protein sources to choose from (and FYI: there are toooons more delicious and healthy options out there, too!), you could still enjoy plenty of variety in your diet, eating everything from a grilled chicken salad to a southwestern quinoa and bean scramble. And by adding more protein to your meals, you’ll feel so satisfied, saying “No” to that second or third helping of Grandma’s famous mint brownies will feel a looot easier.
2. Become BFFs with healthy fats!
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard something say something like, “You better not eat that. It has soooo much fat.”
Most likely, evvverybody and their mama has their hands up the air. After all, more than any other food group, fats tend to get a bad rap in the healthy eating world. But here’s an important news flash: sugar is actually worse for your mind and body than fat…and eating healthy fats is a suuuuper important part of eating a healthy diet.
Now, like you’ve probably already guessed, healthy fats are very different from fatty foods like french fries or donuts. Instead, I’m talkin’ about foods like avocado, flax seeds and chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds and almond butter. Plus you can’t go wrong with grass-fed ghee or high-quality oils like olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil and even red palm fruit oil.
And here’s good news for any of the overachievers already thinking how to work healthy eating tip number 1 into their everyday diet: many proteins like salmon and grass-fed beef are already loaded with healthy fats, so you get plenty of bang for your edible buck.
Whether you load up on avocado or use more olive oil in your cooking, your main goal should be having 2-3 servings of healthy fats at every meal.
And if you’re a foodie like me, all of this is verrry good news. Because here’s another secret about fats: besides helping you feel like the god or goddess you really are, they also help your meals taste pretty freakin’ amazing!
3. Eat ALL the non-starchy vegetables. (Literally. Eat as much of them as you can!)
Now, I won’t promise that eating more spinach will turn you into a strong, more stylish version of Popeye the Sailor. However, eating loooots of non-starchy veggies like spinach is a KEY part of any nourishing diet.
In fact, I’m challenging you to eat two or more servings of non-starchy veggies with EVERY meal, starting right now! I know that can sound intimidating, especially if you were like me as a kid and always ate as few vegetables as humanly possible. But a serving size is only 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables…and there are TONS of non-starchy vegetables you can choose from, including:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Red Peppers
Some of my favorite ways to get in those veggies? Grate cauliflower or broccoli to make a veggie “rice.” Roast strips of cabbage until they’re cooked through and crunchy, kinda like a healthier version of potato chips. You can even stuff whole red bell peppers with yummy goodies like quinoa, lamb and avocado. And even more exciting than how good vegetables can taste is how good they’ll make you feel – during the holidays, and all year long!
4. Craving some carbs? Go with starchy, high-fiber options!
Just like fats, carbs are often seen as the dietary devil…but starchy foods actually give you the energy you need to slay your goals for that day (or, at the very least, finish your holiday shopping). Plus, they’re packed with fiber, which keeps your digestion happy, and other vitamins and nutrients.
“But Caitlin,” you might be wondering. “Right now, my definition of ‘carbs’ are the tortilla chips I eat with salsa and guac. What kinda starchy, high-fiber carbs are you talkin’ about?!?”
Well, some of the best healthy carbs out there include:
- Butternut Squash
- Black Beans
- Wild Rice
Experiment with healthy carbs like these to figure out which ones your body reacts best to. Then aim to eat 1 to 2 servings of high-fiber starchy carbs per meal!
5. Turn your water bottle into your favorite fashion accessory.
When’s the last time you drank some water today? If it wasn’t within the last few minutes, grab yourself a glass and start sipping because drinking more water is my fifth tip for staying healthy during the holidays!
No matter how crazzzy the next few weeks get, aim to drink at least 8 glasses of filtered water. Every. Single. Day. Don’t wait until the afternoon to start drinking, either. Begin each morning with a jug of lemon water when you wake up. Besides re-hydrating your body after sleep, lemon water can also help wake up your digestion and detoxify the body…so there’s really no reason NOT to kick off each day with a glass of it.
The only time to limit water consumption is when you’re eating. If you’re eating a big meal and chugging like a marathon runner who just finished a summer race, that liquid can dilute your stomach enzymes and totally mess with your digestion.
Otherwise, keep your water bottle close by and sip throughout your day.
6. Become the queen at swapping inflammatory foods with healthier alternatives.
Remember when I told you that these seven healthy eating tips wouldn’t keep you from having a crazy awesome holiday season? Well, mastering this tip is key to loving all the food you’re eating, even if you’re making healthier choices.
Here’s how the “swapping” works. You watch out for suuuuper inflammatory foods, like corn, gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, and sugar or artificial sweeteners. Then, you replace them with healthier – but equally delicious – options. So, you end up making swaps like these:
- Sandwich Bread ➔ Brown Rice Tortillas, Coconut Paleo Wraps or Lettuce Leaves
- Wheat Pasta ➔ Quinoa Pasta, Lentil Pasta, Zucchini Noodles, or Spaghetti Squash
- Cow’s Milk ➔ Unsweetened Coconut, Almond, or Cashew Milk
- Mashed Potatoes ➔ Puréed Cauliflower
- White Potatoes ➔ Sweet Potatoes or Butternut Squash
- Corn Chips ➔ Bean Chips, Brown Rice Chips, or Lentil Chips
- Soy Sauce ➔ Coconut Aminos
- Tofu ➔ Non-Starchy Veggies or Other Clean, Lean Protein
- Peanuts ➔ Almonds, Walnuts, or Pistachios
- Juice ➔ Unsweetened Fruit-Infused Water or Unsweetened Green Tea
- Sugar ➔ Monk Fruit, Birch-Derived Xylitol, Stevia
- Store-Bought Ketchup ➔ Salsa or Homemade Ketchup
- Bottled Salad Dressing ➔ Olive Oil and a Specialty Vinegar or Lemon Juice
- Sweetened Lattes ➔ Half-Caf with a Splash of Coconut Milk
By making these kinds of simple swaps, you can still totally enjoy all the flavors of the holidays, whether it’s mashed potatoes or a pumpkin spiced latte. You’ll just be picking more nourishing ingredients or foods that will make you feel good (and not like a sleepy over-stuffed turkey) at the end of the day.
7. Go easy on the alcohol.
I know, I know. Saying no to that second glass of wine during the holiday season might sound as crazy as Santa shaving off his beard. But studies have actually found that drinking a lot of alcohol on the regular can make people feel even more anxious, stressed and just plain low. And it’s hard for anyone to wake up feeling excited and ready to tackle the day when they’re battling a massive hangover!
That’s why this holiday season, I want YOU to reduce – if not totally eliminate – allll your festive drinking.
And I promise. It’s waaaay easier than you might think! After all, cutting back on alcohol doesn’t mean you have to cut back on your holiday festivities. Holiday parties can even be MORE fun now that you don’t wake up hating yourself for downing that third cocktail. And there are tooons of amazing non-alcoholic options out there that can keep you from feeling awkward or left out.
In fact, some of my personal favorites include:
- Non-alcholic beer, wine or mocktails, etc.
- Sparkling water with a dash each of cranberry juice and lime juice
- San Pellegrino (the blood orange flavor is BOMB!)
- Ginger beer
Sure, overindulging with your favorite wine or cocktail can feel pretty dang nice in the moment. But you don’t just want one pretty good holiday party. You want to enjoy an epically healthy, happy holiday SEASON. And reducing your alcohol intake can help you achieve just that!
My Gift To You: An Easy Way to Start Eating a Healthy Diet This Holiday Season
So we’ve gone over my seven rules for staying healthy during the holidays and you’ve learned how you can change your diet – and your life – for the better. But if you’re like a lot of people in my community, now you’re thinking something like this:
“I know I need to take better care of myself this year, and these tips sound super helpful…but how the heck will I have time to change my whoooole diet when the holidays are already making me crazy busy?!?”
That’s where my 30 Day Anti-Anxiety Meal Plan comes in. This meal plan is packed with 30 days worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners that are not only super delicious but also specifically designed to reduce inflammation, lower anxiety and help you feel calm and balanced, even during insanely busy times! Plus, every single recipe uses suuuper simple ingredients and can be made in 30 minutes or less. That way, you can spend less time worrying about and cooking food and more time relaxing with friends and family this holiday season. To learn more about my Anti-Anxiety Meal Plan or to get your copy today, click here.
The Bottom Line of Staying Healthy During the Holidays
I know how hard it can be when everyone else seems to be loooooving the holidays and fully embracing the “most magical time of the year”…and you feel icky, overwhelmed or just plain down.
But here’s the good news: because what you eat can actually shape how you feel and what you think, YOU can influence how you feel this holiday season. Even more importantly, you can set yourself up to be able to handle whatever stressors the holidays throw your way, from a Thanksgiving dinner with a burnt turkey to a great-aunt who never holds back what she really thinks about your weight/relationship/life choices.
And to do all that, you just need to choose. Choose to value yourself enough to put yourself first, even during the holidays. And choose to commit to making changes to your diet that will help you feel joyful and strong, all year!
I’ve seen first-hand how much these seven healthy eating tips can change changes people’s lives – and their holidays – for the better. In fact, I count myself as one of those people.
This year, though, I can’t wait to hear YOUR stories…and see what true holiday magic you end up creating, one healthy meal at a time!
Which of these seven rules do you want to start implementing into your own diet first? Tell me in the comments!