By Taylor Winkel, First Mile Care DPP Coach and Registered Dietitian

Holiday get-togethers are a great bonding experience. You celebrate with family and friends, play games and watch sports, and overall rejoice in being together and making up for lost time after the enforced separations of the last couple of years.

Unfortunately, we all know that the holiday season also presents temptations to forget your healthy lifestyle goals, overeat, skip exercising, and burn the candle at both ends. It’s important to know how to deal with lapses when you go off-track from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) and are tempted to fall back into old unhealthy routines that can lead to prediabetes.

If you are hosting a holiday meal or party this year, you’ll experience the added stress of higher food costs while trying to offer the perfect menu that will please everyone and adhere to dietary needs, preferences, and recommendations — your own as well as your guests’. There are also the added chores of cleaning the house, preparing guest accommodation, arranging adequate parking, determining seating arrangements to avoid confrontations, etc. 

Take it easy

Planning can help you deal better with this time in your life. As the host, the best thing to remember is that you don’t have to please everyone! Not everyone will eat every single one of your dishes; you’ll have a range of individuals at your house, and individual preferences will determine who grabs what. 

You can only do so much, so delegate if possible! Ask family and friends who live nearby to bring a dish to share so you don’t end up doing all the leg work. If a guest is requesting a specific dish due to restrictions or diet preferences, accommodate if it is reasonable, but it’s fine to ask them to contribute something as well.

Compromise is key, to avoid feeling that you are taking on too much. For example, if you plan to make a favorite sweet potato casserole that usually includes nuts as a topping but one of your guests is allergic to nuts — go ahead and still make the casserole. Don’t change your menu. However, you could put the nuts in a separate serving dish to avoid contamination, put it next to the casserole, and then people can add it to their serving if desired. And if someone is vegan, don’t be shy about admitting you don’t know what they can and cannot have, and ask them to contribute a dish. As the  host, you might offer up a simple non-meat option like lentils or tofu.  

You can also avoid disappointing guests who expect traditional dishes by offering tweaked versions or reasonable substitutes. (See my article about how to make traditional holiday meals healthier.)

Savoring your favorites

Whatever you decide to eat at a holiday meal — the side dish, the pie, the main course — make sure it’s what you really, really want to eat.  If you’re concerned about looking polite and sampling Aunt Marge’s casserole, let people know that you will dish up your own servings and give yourself small, two-bite samples. In that way, you can taste everything and then decide on your absolute favorites for larger helpings. What you want to avoid is eating a big serving of a high-calorie item that you don’t even particularly want, simply because it’s on your plate and you want to be polite.

When dining, whether as host or guest, eat slowly and truly savor aromas and the flavors of each bite so you get more enjoyment out of what you’re eating. Mindful eating, where you honor all five senses, helps you slow down and give your body time to alert your brain that it’s had enough fuel so you can avoid overeating.  And don’t forget that it’s perfectly OK to decline second helpings and to throw away leftovers if you don’t have anyone to give them to.

The most wonderful, challenging time of the year

The holidays may be full of joy, but the reality is that for most people, this busy period can lead to stressful situations that are challenging for adhering to your healthy lifestyle goals. You will probably eat more and exercise less. Allow yourself a little leeway, forgive your lapses, and emphasize positive thoughts. The important thing is to get back on track if you do veer off, and recalibrate your goals to maintain healthy habits.

To learn more about how you can benefit from the First Mile Care Diabetes Prevention Program, take the prediabetes risk test and get started today!