Omgawd I'm feelin' rebellious. I just wanna write posts about ditching rules but really I'm just not organized enough to follow them.
BUT even if you are organized enough to follow them, rules dictating our holiday eating habits are at their best, a drag, and at their worst, counterintuitive (please forgive my rampant errors in sentence structuring).
The same ole advice about how to control our holiday intake is published in magazines year after year. I know this because I have a thing for hoarding vintage magazines. There are articles in issues of Martha and Taste of Home from THE EIGHTIES talking about using tiny plates in an attempt to fool ourselves into eating less at holiday parties (a tip you will still see in magazines and online articles today).
My number one goal (in life?) is exemplifying to my kids what a good, healthy relationship with food looks like. Austin and I were just talking about how crazy it is that Ruthie, our toddler, learned to talk JUST from listening to us (crazy if you think about it too much). We are the center of her world right now, she is learning from everything we do. I have this burning desire to show her how to eat in a healthy way, have a great relationship with food, and hopefully minimize the effect that other people/the media will one day have on her.
These holiday eating tips could be categorized as intuitive eating, mindful eating, or maybe most importantly, ENJOYABLE eating.
Tip to Ditch: Fill up before the party.
I always picture someone force feeding themselves celery when I hear this one because this advice is sometimes followed by the suggestion of raw fruits or vegetables as the pre-party snack. Raise your hand if you're eating raw produce as a pre-party snack (no one raises hand). The sentiment is "you aren't capable of being around delicious holiday food without going nuts, so fill up yo belly with boring old home food before you're faced with the good stuff".
What to try instead: I know the morning news likes to show us scary statistics that break down our hankerings into numbers (like "each Christmas you gain one lb resulting in 40 lbs over 40 years" yadda yadda) but our intake to weight gain ratio just isn't that simple. Eating what sounds good to you at a holiday party does not automatically equal weight gain. More and more research is showing that not eating what sounds good to you, aka dieting, DOES result in weight gain. Enjoy holiday party food. At parties, I like to fill my plate with veggies alongside my fave buffalo chicken dip (#classy).
Tip to Ditch: Take the focus off of food.
BUT WHY? Holiday food is one of the most amazing this in this life. There are obviously many other wonderful aspects of the holidays, but telling me to take the focus off of food probably results in me focusing even more on food. Just like when someone tells me to enjoy every second with my babies it makes me think, oh god, am I enjoying them enough?! And then I focus on thinking about enjoying my babies rather than just enjoying them (omg I'm a LOON). Don't feel guilty if one of the things you love most about the holidays is food.
What to try instead: Really, truly slow down and enjoy the special food this time of year brings. You've heard this advice before, but have you tried it? Putting down the phone and turning off the tv, sometimes it involves not even participating in conversation but really paying attention to all aspects of the food being eaten. It's kind of amazing the difference it makes and not only with good food. I tried this approach with a Twix after Halloween and found that it sort of tasted like wax 🤔.
Tip to Ditch: Save your calories for the main meal.
I don't like the idea that calories can be saved for more important foods, or wasted on less important foods. To me, its another way of saying that some foods are good and others are bad. I have a gut feeling that if I avoided appetizers at a party with thoughts of saving my calories for the main meal, I would probably eat way more at that meal and still feel like I missed out on the apps.
What to try instead: The idea of saving up calories backfires, particularly if it leaves you famished before a big meal. You are in charge of your intake. Trust yourself. Allow yourself to eat what you truly want to eat, no substitutions.
Tip to (maybe) Ditch: Make a healthier version of your favorite.
OK, I actually love this one. The reason I'm including it is because this suggestion is almost always followed by some version of "save calories and fat by swapping out butter for applesauce", implying that healthy = lower in calories. I once made a cake by adding a can of diet soda to a box of cake mix and topping with lite Cool Whip and it was full of artificial ingredients and just so unsatisfying. But it was considered (by someone on Pinterest) a healthier version of chocolate cake because the calorie count was low.
What to try instead: I like to add as many good things to dessert or side recipes as I can: doubling the spinach in spinach and artichoke dip, adding more oats to the crumb topping on an apple crisp, tossing in some extra celery, onion, and dried cherries to my stuffing. Add good things to recipes instead of taking away or replacing the "bad".
Even if you have 100 holiday parties this season, choosing foods that satisfy is the only way to go. Satisfying foods and healthy foods are most definitely not mutually exclusive and it's totally possible to crave healthy foods. Let's take a leaf from Bobby's book this holiday season and tuck into a (whole grain, pear sweetened) donut or two.