As the holidays approach, many of us look forward to seeing friends and family, and of course to some of our favourite food and drinks.  Holiday gatherings and feasts offer plenty of opportunity to overindulge, which can set you back if you have fitness or nutritional goals. But times like this are intended to bring us together – not cause guilt. 

The holidays are all about traditional dishes like turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pie. Instead of worrying you’ll lose the gains you’ve made since your September return to the gym, take time to plan ahead and prepare for these long-awaited holiday celebrations. 

Here are 5 tips to plan for a guilt-free holiday season: 

1. Ramp up your workout routine 

Add a few extra workouts ahead of time. Investing in some extra time beforehand, maybe even trying a new fitness class, means you won’t worry when you have to skip a day or two. The extra work you’ve put in may motivate you to stick with just one serving.

2. Don’t go hungry 

It may seem like a good idea to skip a meal before a big feast, but showing up hungry can reduce your judgment when it comes to sensible choices and portion sizes. Have a healthy breakfast, drink plenty of water, and snack on some veggies prior to your holiday meal. That way you'll be more likely to eat your usual portions and choose healthy options.   

3. Be mindful of portions 

The bounty of harvest season is tantalizing, and you deserve to enjoy it! With so many options, why not really enjoy each dish, rather than stacking your plate so full so you can’t tell what’s what? Everything is healthy in moderation. Overdoing it can leave you feeling sluggish and tired. Trying a little of everything will leave you satisfied and energized to spend quality time with family and friends. 

4. Veg out 

If you’re entertaining, or even contributing a dish or two to the meal, you have the option of getting creative with lighter recipes that are equally delicious. These days, lots of people prefer a plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan diet. Volunteer to bring a meatless entrée or side dish.

The internet is full of appetizing recipes of all kinds, including dairy and wheat-free. Something as simple as substituting broth for butter and cream in mashed potatoes can save many calories, and offer more options to those who don’t eat dairy. It can also leave room to balance your dinner with a glass of wine, or maybe your favourite pie.

5. Be thankful 

The purpose of the holidays is to enjoy the bounty of harvest season and consider how grateful you are. Take time to enjoy the people you may not see as often as you like. Maybe even take a walk together after dinner. It’s a great way to connect while fitting in some fresh air.

The holidays are meant to be a time of celebration, not guilt. With a bit of planning, you can enjoy all the delicious food and drink offerings and still make healthy choices. Be grateful to spend time with friends and family, and indulge a little! Instead of feeling guilty when it’s over, you’ll feel rested and ready to push on with your health and fitness goals.