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6 Tips to Enjoy Your Holiday Meal Without Overeating or Food Guilt

dr. morgan nolte weight loss Nov 27, 2019


You Will Learn: 

  • How to set mini-goals BEFORE the big meal to improve your self-control. 
  • The 3 magic words to eat less sweets. 
  • Structure your meal to fuel your body. 
  • Hydration tips. 
  • Mindset shifts to avoid the guilt associated with eating dessert. 
  • Stress relief techniques to reduce emotional eating. 


Train for Game Day

I view big holiday feasts the same way an athlete may anticipate a big sporting event. They can’t expect to slack off in practice, or just not practice at all, and perform well on game day. 

The only way to have self-control during the holidays is to practice self-control before the actual meal itself. One of the most practical things you can do is a mini-fast from sweets the week before the holiday. Starting last week I made the mental commitment to myself, and one my my clients, not to eat any sweets until Thanksgiving. 

Sometimes eating sweets, even a few chocolate chips or a piece of candy, becomes automatic and inconsequential. In the big scheme of things, it probably is. But the point of this exercise is to practice mindful eating and self-control. 

Then when the actual meal comes, and I want seconds, or I want more dessert, I’ve built my self-control muscles over the last week so that it takes a lot less willpower to say “no thank you” than it otherwise would. 

I also try to reduce snacking the week before the holiday. If I do want to snack on the holiday, I try to pick off the vegetable or cheese tray, to eat foods that won’t spike my blood sugar and insulin. 


The Three Magic Words

This is a really simple technique! Just because someone offers you food, doesn’t mean you need to take it. Simply say, “No thank you” and move on. If you feel bad turning someone down, offer your assistance in another way. Maybe you could clean, cook, entertain kids, fill water glasses, etc. One of my favorite sayings is “see the need” and the holidays are the perfect time to practice that. It keeps you busy and productive without needing to be around the food all of the time. 


Structure Your Meal to Fuel Your Body

I recommend filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables or salad. Crowd your plate with foods that are higher in fiber and take smaller portions of the more unhealthy options. Ensure that you are getting some sort of protein with your meal to keep you full and less likely to go back for seconds. 

If there is no color on your plate, i.e. it’s full of bread and potatoes, you may want to consider going back from some vegetables. Remember that starch and sugar don't trigger the hormones that tell you to stop eating, but eating foods with fat, protein, and fiber will, so you will be less likely to overeat. 


Hydration Tips

If you fill your body with water, there will be less room for food. Plain and simple. Try to drink at least one full glass of water shortly before your meal. 

All too often I look around at water glasses still nearly full after a meal (while the wine glasses are closer to empty!). Make a mini-goal to drink at least one glass of water during your meal. This will make you be more mindful, and slow you down. Another tip I’ve used to slow down is to literally put my fork down several times during the meal to focus more on conversation. 

I’d recommend drinking another glass of water before dessert. 

Avoid diet drinks as these often cause cravings for sweet foods, and I don’t think anyone needs anymore temptation around the holidays. Alcohol is a source of empty calories, and many sweet drinks are loaded with sugar. If you drink, do-so in moderation.

Stick with primarily water, tea, or coffee. 

Avoid Dessert Guilt

I call holiday meals exception meals for a reason. I teach my clients good nutritional habits, a solid baseline, so that they can veer off 10% of the time or less for an exception meal. They’ve worked on their nutrition and formed solid habits most of the time, so they can enjoy the dessert without feeling guilty because they have likely eaten healthy up to that meal, and will return to their nutritional baseline after that meal. 

If you don’t regularly have exception meals when you are losing weight, you aren’t giving yourself the opportunity to practice self-control on a regular basis, and may fall off the band-wagon when you hit a weight loss milestone, instead of getting right back on the horse. 

Accept that food, especially unhealthy food, is part of most family traditions. Stop worrying about what the scale will say tomorrow, be present and enjoy your family. 


Stress Relief Techniques to Reduce Emotional Eating

Get a good night of sleep the day before a holiday. I recommend trying to get at least 7 hours of sleep. When you are sleep deprived your hunger hormones go up, and your satiety hormones go down, making your more likely to crave high carb foods and overeat. 

I recommend doing a little exercise the day of Thanksgiving, even a short walk or stretch can be helpful to reduce your stress and calm your mind to prepare for the rush of food, fun, and family. If the weather is nice, try to go for a walk or doing an activity after the big meal to use up some of that energy!