Life

6 Healthy Habits for the Holiday Season

5 min read

Article Content

There’s no time like the holidays. The colder months seem to have a certain je ne sais quoi, no? Be it the twinkling lights, festive colors, or nostalgic tunes, there’s just something about them that evokes coziness and contentment. More than anything, it's a time to slow down and luxuriate in all things pleasurable: connecting with loved ones, making memories, and—you guessed it!—eating (and drinking) the best of what the season has to offer.

Invariably, many of our healthy eating habits can take a hit over this period, too, which may leave us feeling more run-down than rejuvenated—especially when left unchecked. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By incorporating a few simple hacks to support wellness (we're looking at you, digestion), you can set yourself up not just to survive the holiday season, but thrive—whatever the celebration.

If you’re a breakfast person, commit to a healthy one.

You’re probably familiar with the whole “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” adage, and there are indeed studies that show regular breakfast consumption has a positive impact for some people. That said, research studying breakfast consumption, calorie intake, and body weight is mixed—the majority of observational studies report that breakfast consumption is associated with a lower BMI, while some research has found that breakfast skippers actually have lower total energy intakes. (1, 2, 3)

Regardless, there’s a case to be made for how embracing the habit might support a more motivated mindset: Nourishing yourself in the morning can set the tone for the rest of the day, and by making healthy choices at the outset, you might just be more inclined to keep the momentum going. Plus, as dietitian and maternal nutrition expert Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN, points out, “It’s the perfect opportunity to fill up on whole grains, fruits, and veggies.”

Essential reading → A Vegetarian B12 Breakfast You’ll Want to Make Again and Again

Choose your drinks wisely.

We come bearing good news: Alcohol can be part of a balanced lifestyle for those who choose to sip. In fact, in Blue Zones, five regions across the world where residents reportedly live much longer than the global average, imbibing is a practice done regularly. The booze of choice in said areas? Wine—Sardinian Cannonau wine, to be specific. (7)

What’s the secret to indulgence? Moderation, for one—studies show that wellness benefits cap at about one to two glasses of wine a day—and social connection. In other words, the drinks are part of a communal bonding experience, not a solo salve. And no, says Dan Buettner, the bestselling author and National Geographic fellow who popularized the Blue Zones concept, “You cannot save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.” (It should be noted that while some studies have found improved health outcomes among moderate drinkers, others have not, further underscoring the importance of sipping safely. When in doubt, less is more.) (7, 8)

The takeaway? If you choose to drink, have a glass, and enjoy with food, friends, or family—just don’t forget to stay hydrated. (8)

Essential reading → The Science of Staying Hydrated (and How to Be Better at It)

Have a pre-meal snack to help with satiety.

Depriving your body can backfire, and if you tend to wait until you’re famished (or skip meals earlier in the day), you may end up noshing past the point of comfort the next time you eat. If this sounds familiar, try having a small snack, such as a protein shake, an hour or two before a meal to help support satiety. Not only can this “appetizer” help curb those emergency, in-the-moment snacking situations (you know, the ones that lead to drive-throughs and candy bars), but it can also allow for the mental space to make conscious choices—versus being at the mercy of whatever is in sight. Before snacking, just be sure to check in with yourself to ensure you’re actually hungry. (6)

Essential reading → 4 Tips to Find a Good-Tasting Protein Powder

Everything in moderation.

The holidays are about celebrating and eating good food, so don’t restrict yourself—just make an effort to incorporate nutrient-dense meals wherever possible, even if you can only bookend them. Planning on carb-feasting for dinner (with no veggies in sight)? Whip up a nutritionally-balanced smoothie for breakfast. You’d be surprised how many nutrients you can pack in, especially when you reach for greens and other fresh produce.

You might also embrace the Japanese method of hara hachi bu, which residents of Okinawa, Japan, follow. It’s basically the idea of slowing down and eating “until you’re 80 percent full”, which allows your body time to catch up and register what it’s consumed—which, in turn, may help curb overeating. (4, 5)

Essential reading → What We Can Learn from Blue Zones—Five of the Most Healthful Regions in the World

Don’t give up your holiday favorites—tweak them.

Healthy eating doesn’t mean forgoing the good stuff, it just means getting creative in the kitchen. Whether that means using a little less butter in that green bean casserole (or trying this vegan creamed greens recipe), substituting cauliflower mashed potatoes for the OG, or embracing healthier sugar alternatives in those baked goods (and hot chocolates!), there are endless ways to have your cake and eat it, too.

Essential reading → A Vegan Freezer Fudge Recipe That’s Actually Nutritious

Keep calm and carry on.

As you navigate the chaos and excitement of the holiday season, remember to take time for yourself. Whether that means passing on a holiday party to stay in and destress, taking a post-dinner walk to help support digestion, or connecting with a friend over some spiked cider, remember that the best way to embrace the holiday spirit is to take care of yours. (That includes mental health, too.)

Essential reading → Food Coma? How to Bounce Back from a Big Meal

References:

  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library. "Adult Weight=" Accessed 1 Dec 2021.
  2. Sievert, K., Hussain, S.M., Page, M.J., Wang, Y., Hughes, H.J., Malek, M., Flavia, M., & Cicuttini, F.M. (2019). Effect of breakfast: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ, 364:l42.
  3. Rong, S., Snetselaar, L. G., Xu, G., Sun, Y., Liu, B., Wallace, R. B., & Bao, W. (2019). Association of Skipping Breakfast. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 73(16), 2025–2032.
  4. Mishra, Badrin. “Secret of Eternal Youth; Teaching from the Centenarian Hot Spots (‘Blue Zones’).” Indian Journal of Community Medicine, vol. 34, no. 4, 2009, p. 273.
  5. “Don't Just Eat in Moderation, Make Better Food Choices, HSPH Researcher Says.” News, 9 Jan. 2014, Retrieved from Harvard School of Public Health
  6. Zeballos, E., & Tood, J.E. (2020). The effects of skipping a meal on daily energy intake and diet quality. Public Health Nutrition, 23(18), 3346-3355.
  7. Buettner, D., & Skemp, S. (2016). Blue Zones: Lessons From the World's Longest Lived. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 10(5), 318–321.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol.

Meet Our Experts

This article features advice and has been reviewed by members of our Science Team.

Ritual - Science Team

Addy Grier-Welch, MS, MPH, RDN, Research Scientist

Addy Grier-Welch is a Research Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MS in Public Health Nutrition and MPH from the University of Tennessee where she researched community-based food policies and environmental interventions. As a registered dietitian, Addy has spearheaded nutrition support for organizations participating in federal food programs geared toward providing healthy meals to children and adults.

Ritual - Science Team

Addy Grier-Welch, MS, MPH, RDN, Research Scientist

Addy Grier-Welch is a Research Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MS in Public Health Nutrition and MPH from the University of Tennessee where she researched community-based food policies and environmental interventions. As a registered dietitian, Addy has spearheaded nutrition support for organizations participating in federal food programs geared toward providing healthy meals to children and adults.

Share

Shop Multivitamin

Multivitamin

Shop Gut Health
New

Gut Health

Shop Protein

Protein

Shop Pregnancy

Pregnancy