Mindful & Merry: Tips for Maintaining Healthy Habits Around the Holidays

The holidays are almost here, and with them come ugly sweater parties, white elephant gift exchanges, Mariah Carey’s iconic jingle-y pop on repeat and … so much food. Deeply woven into every culture’s celebration of pretty much any holiday are convivial gatherings around tables laden with dishes. Especially during winter holidays, when the weather outside is frightful and hibernation vibes abound, many holiday meals veer toward decadence, with rich foods, heaps of sweets, and ample amounts of booze.

For those in our ZENB community who are committed to living a balanced lifestyle, these situations can be a little tricky to navigate. On the one hand, you want to partake in the joyful feasts, clink glasses with friends, and not be stressing about every single thing on your plate. But on the other hand, you don’t want to overdo it or compromise your healthy habits.

So, you may find yourself contemplating: How do you mindfully indulge, enjoying the sumptuous spreads at parties, but leave feeling as great as you felt when you arrived?

We’ve got some advice for making your way through the excess-driven holidays, and guess what? It doesn’t include skipping dessert! 😀

Bring a Gift (of Food)

There’s no shame in the game of checking in with the host ahead of time to see if you can bring a dish to share. Throwing a party can be stressful, and most people are more than happy to welcome food that they don’t have to prep or cook. That provides the chance for you to help out AND bring along something healthy to eat that you know you’ll enjoy.

The key to bringing along a dish is to be completely self-sufficient. Do not tote along a dish that requires any finishing touches (even reheating), as this may add to the host’s gathering go-time overwhelm. Bring your dish in a service-ready bowl, and yes, bring your own serving spoon or tongs. The goal is to be able to place the dish on the table, uncover it, and be completely good to go.

Pasta salad is literally the perfect dish for this scenario: it gets better as it marinates in the bowl, and it tastes great at room temperature. Try our Spicy Vietnamese ZENB Penne Pasta Salad, Lemon Tahini Agile Salad, or Super Green ZENB Rotini Pasta Salad with Kale Pesto.

Deck Your Plate With Tons of Veggies

Nearly every party has some kind of great vegetable dish in the snack spread. Maybe that’s your classic crudité with ranch dressing; an antipasti platter with artichokes, roasted red peppers, and olives; hummus and baba ghanoush with cucumber spears; or saucy stuffed mushrooms.

It sounds so simple, but starting with an ample serving of the most vegetable-forward dish available can help you start off on the right food. Think about it: when you first arrive at a party, you’re probably hungry, and everything looks so good. Satisfying your appetite with a plant-powered appetizer can really help you avoid less-nutritious options, like cheese and charcuterie.

Make Peace with Portions

Unless you have an allergy or food sensitivity, you don’t have to make anything “off-limits” so long as you mind the portions. A little nibble of this or scoop of that isn’t going to be the make-or-break for your habits. That’s what makes a treat a treat! Certain foods or dishes might be a little outside your norm, but enjoying a small taste can be so exciting.

One easy way of managing portions is to use visual cues. Here are a few keep in your back pocket:

  • Grains → 1 cup = the size of your fist
  • Meat → 3 ounces = the size of a smartphone or a baseball
  • Cheese → 1 ounce = the size of a matchbox or a pair of dice
  • Nuts → 1 ounce = a small handful, or what would fit in a shot glass
  • Chips and pretzels → 1 ounce = two scant handfuls
  • Dried fruit → the size of a ping pong ball

For more inspiration on living a balanced lifestyle, check out the ZENB blog and follow us on social media: Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. And when you’re hosting the holiday party, find all the plant-powered recipes you need in the ZENB recipe collection!


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