4 Ways Holiday Stress Impacts Your Diet

by in Healthy Holidays, Our Dietitan

Let’s face it: the holidays are not all glowing and perfect like the picture found on the front of a Hallmark card. They are packed with last-minute gift giving, scrambling for your child who “forgot” to tell you they need a crimson collared shirt for their holiday concert, and well, just trying to keep up. Whether it’s because you’re too busy to get to the supermarket or craving less healthful foods, holiday stress reaches all aspects of your food choices. The good news is you’re not alone, and there are solutions to these common problems.

This twist on a traditional Wassail is quick to make and perfect to toss in a slow cooker for a warm party punch at the last minute.

Too stressed to grocery shop?

You rush and run from store to holiday event (and back to the store), yet don’t end up at the supermarket, which is the one place you meant to get to.

Problem: You don’t have the food on hand to make dinner…or your other meals for that matter. Without fresh foods in the house, you are forced to rely on expensive take out and less healthful choices.

Solution: If you’ve thought about having your groceries delivered, then this is the time to try it out. Or pick an hour (somewhere in your schedule) to get to the store for to buy a few staples and the ingredients for two dishes that aren’t hard to prepare (such as one for the slow cooker and a casserole). Keeping a good stock of instant brown rice, low-sodium canned beans, no-salt-added canned tomatoes and frozen vegetables on hand can help when getting to the grocery store is tough.

Too stressed to cook?

You managed to get to the store, but don’t have time to cook, so your money goes to convenience items and processed foods.

Problem: Lean on the wrong convenience foods and you will likely consume too much saturated fat, salt or calories. In many cases, the small portions found in boxed meals aren’t even satisfying. The double impact here is that you may be both choosing foods higher in calories and left looking for more when you’re done eating.

Solution: If you bought the ingredients for a slow cooker meal, then get them in and cook it overnight. Or that casserole? Prepare it and get it in the oven to cook while you are wrapping presents (or ironing that holiday concert outfit). If you are relying on convenience items, try to add in some satisfying ingredients such as greens, crushed nuts or lower fat cheese.

Too stressed to bring a healthy dish?

Holiday parties mean many opportunities for decadent foods. To interrupt this pattern, you plan to contribute a healthful dish. But, the best laid plans…

Problem: You’re barely able to get ingredients for your own dinner…how are you going to make a nourishing dish for a party?

Solution: If you don’t have time to make a healthful dish to contribute (and someone else is already bringing the store-bought veggie platter), make it easier for yourself by both eating something healthful ahead of time and making lunch a bigger, more nourishing meal so that you only require a light dinner. (And just bring the host a gift!)

Too stressed to avoid the cookies on your counter?

All this stress culminates in the moment you probably picture when you think about holiday stress and eating. Yup, the holiday cookies. You know the scene: you’re tired, weak and vulnerable to wanting sugar.

Problem: This is made worse when you’re eating is “off” and your food choices are imbalanced, leaving you genuinely hungry and reaching for the nearest thing.

Solution: Get them off your counter…out of sight, out of mind. Keep more nourishing seasonal treats like in-shell nuts and easy-to-peel clementines closer to hand.

Just generally too stressed?

While I may not be able to take away the stress, I can lessen the impact on your diet with four more simple strategies that keep you on track when life gets busy:

  • Prepare foods and freeze dishes when you can. You’ll be thrilled to have a homemade meal on a day when you couldn’t make it happen. Likewise, when you cook, be sure that what you prepare is going to last for at least two meals.
  • Use Guiding Stars to purchase better-for-you convenience items at the supermarket that allow you to “cut corner” with foods prepared the way you would…if only you had time too. Keep items like rice pouches, low-sodium soups, hummus or other healthful dips and steam-in-bag veggies on your list.
  • Even if you have just a few minutes to get the store, be sure to pick up baby carrots, grape tomatoes and sugar snap peas, which don’t require any prep and allow you to consume a colorful snack or a quick, simple meal when paired with the hearty soup you also picked up (nothing wrong with simple!).
  • Last thing…it may not be about food, but keep up your gym routine to manage that stress. I realize it’s tough to get there, but the benefits are numerous, and you will never regret carving out that time.

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