The 12 Days of Christmas Health, Day 3

Indulge in only the most special holiday treats.

(Part 3 of a 12-part series)

The holidays often involve kicking back and letting go of our normal routines – after all, we want to enjoy the season. Yet often this means that we overindulge. Here are a few simple ways to help keep from reaching for another handful of salted peanuts, or biting into another Christmas cookie without really wanting it.

Make every bite count. It’s the holidays and so enjoy some treats, but beware of overeating, which will just make you feel uncomfortable and will cause you to have to work harder to get back on track in the New Year. So make sure that every bite counts. In other words, don’t just blow your entire daily calorie allowance by munching your way through endless bowls of potato chips, store-bought cookies or an entire bag of chocolates simply because they’re there.

Choosing what to indulge in and what to skip is much like budgeting your spending money on vacation: Would you rather spend it on something that you can buy anywhere, or on a very special, one-of-a-kind souvenir? Just don't completely deprive yourself on festive days – you will eventually lose self-control and you'll end up binge eating.

At a party, before you eat a treat, ask yourself if it is really something you want – I have a trick that helps me with this: At the start of the holidays, I choose three treats that I can eat, guilt-free, over the holidays. One of those is my mother-in-law’s festive yule log. She makes it once a year, and looking forward to it keeps me from being tempted by other treats that I know I won’t enjoy nearly as much. And when you do eat your chosen treats, try to do so without feeling guilty. A study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology noted that people who had an attitude of forgiveness and self-compassion after a high-calorie setback were less likely to give up and keep bingeing. When choosing our indulgences, the saying quality over quantity really comes in to play.

Mind your portions. There’s nothing wrong with sampling your favourite holiday treats, but sticking to smaller portions means you can truly enjoy the taste but without adding a lot of unnecessary calories to your evening. One way to help achieve this is to use a smaller plate (or glass!). Research has shown that using a smaller plate can trick your mind into thinking you’re eating a larger portion.

Eat slowly.  In the same line of thinking, eating slowly will give you time to feel full, which also helps to prevent overeating. Really enjoying every bite will provide you with a sense of true satisfaction with smaller portions of food.

Keep the focus on fun, not food. For most of us, the holidays are associated with certain foods. Christmas at your house might not be the same without your aunt's special gingerbread cookies, but that doesn't mean that food has to be the main focus. Instead, throw yourself into the other traditions that the holidays bring, such as tree trimming or going for a walk to look at the lights in your neighbourhood.

Enjoy healthy treats. A cup of herbal chai tea on a cold, snowy weekend morning is a great (healthy) treat.  A really good hummus with vegetables can be a delicious appetizer. Other ideas include raw desserts (made from nuts and seeds, and unprocessed sugars like dates and maple syrup), and sparkling water, which can be a great substitution for sparkling wine.

Stay hydrated.  Dehydration can mask itself as hunger, and often as sugar cravings. And, drinking water can actually make you feel fuller, also helping to keep you from craving sugar and other junk foods. Aim for about 9 cups of water a day, and start as soon as you wake up to help ensure that you are properly hydrated.


Gluten-free, Crustless Pumpkin Pie – This may actually be more like a custard, but I make this every Christmas, and there are never any left overs. It’s one of my favourites.