In Chef Marshall’s Getting Through the Holidays classes, Chef talks about how he retrained his mind on what the holidays mean to him. He had a bit of a negative attitude about the holidays growing up, but when he had kids he realized they can be about joy, curiosity, fun, magic and more. With an open mind and open heart, Chef now enjoys holidays with family and friends.

For many people, parties and food during the holidays are very stressful. We end up eating too many low-nutrition celebration foods and not enough of the nourishing food that help us get through the day with energy to spare. It sets us up for weight gain, a downward energy spiral and cravings we can end up dealing with for months afterwards. Yes, months. It doesn’t have to be this way!

We at the Chef Marshall O’Brien Group always talk about making the holiday season,  positive, bright, and fun. Come January, we hope people feel good about themselves and the choices they made. To help accomplish that, here are five tips to help you enjoy the holidays, not dread them:

  1. Know Yourself – Are you a moderator or an abstainer? In other words, can you eat a bite of something and be happy with that one bite, or do you feel compelled to eat the entire platter of food once you have a nibble? If you fit in the second category, it is best to avoid that food altogether! When you’re aware of how you react to various foods, you will be able to make empowering choices for yourself, not emotional choices.
  2. Do Not Go Hungry – Is it a good idea to go to the grocery store hungry? Of course not! The same is true when you go to a holiday event. Going to a party on an empty stomach is a recipe for overeating the wrong foods. Instead, make sure you eat your normal meals earlier in the day. Then have a nourishing snack and a glass of water before you head to the party so you won’t be tempted to attack the buffet the minute you arrive.
  3. Bring a Nourishing Dish – Make the party host’s life (and yours) easier by bringing a tasty, nourishing dish to the buffet so you won’t have to choose between going hungry and sabotaging your food plan. Try my Sweet & Crisp Chopped Salad—it tastes fantastic and is a nourishing alternative to traditional holiday side dishes that are loaded with added sugars, unhealthy fats and fast carbohydrates.
  4. Focus on the People, Not the Food – Time spent with friends and loved ones does not need to be time spent eating. Plan gatherings that involve being active together – take a wintery walk or go sledding or skiing.
  5. Avoid Drinking Your Calories– Holiday cocktails can pack in a lot of empty calories—from 300 to over 500 per serving! If you’re a woman who needs about 1600 calories each day, that’s almost a quarter of your daily allotment! Also, a serving is a mere 5 ounces, not the 8-10 ounces we typically think of. If this is a delicate dance for you, play it safe and stick to beer or wine and alternate each alcoholic drink with a full glass of water – you will feel fuller, eat and drink less, and the extra hydration will help you feel better the next day.

Incorporate these baby steps into your holiday routine to leave yourself feeling healthy and nourished for the new year.

You will love the way you feel!