Healthy for the Holidays


With Halloween 2020 and all its tricks and treats behind us, it’s finally time to dive into one of the most exciting parts of holiday preparations – the menu. Whether your family celebrates Thanksgiving, Christmas,  Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, or a combination of these festive feasts, being healthy for the holidays this year is going to require planning and…you guessed it, balance.

No matter where on the calendar they fall, holidays are special days when people young, old, and from all corners of the world gather in celebration with their loved ones. The best of them are made even better by good company, good music, and good food. These annual occasions like Juneteenth, Easter, Memorial Day, and Fourth of July, typically scattered throughout the year, are the days many of us make exceptions to our healthy lifestyles. On these days, we are especially tempted to drink a little more than usual, skip our daily workout, and indulge in our favorite forbidden dishes. While taking a break from exercise and succumbing to unhealthy cravings on holidays is usually okay, you’ll need to pay closer attention to your consumption of sugary and fatty foods during this time of year.

November and December are jam-packed with celebrations, each with its own signature drinks and dishes that are difficult for even the healthiest people to pass up. That is why I recommend following the 80/20 Rule, also known as the Weekend Diet. The 80/20 Rule, like most of the tips we share here at Keys to Abundant Life, is an easy one to follow. It is a tool that can be implemented year-round but can be particularly useful in helping you manage food trade offs during the holidays.


So what exactly is the 80/20 rule?


It is a diet in which you eat healthy 80% of the time in exchange for the flexibility to eat whatever your heart desires (within reason) for the other 20% of the time. This rule is all about planning and balance. You can make it your own. I personally follow a 90/10 rule because sugar really isn’t my friend. What’s most important is that you make thoughtful choices on the days and hours leading up to and between holiday meals. Doing so will allow you and your family to enjoy your traditional meals without the guilt or risk of straying too far from your commitment to a healthy holiday season.


Be healthy for the holidays this year by including a few of these simple strategies in your 80/20 Rulebook


  • Pick an approach. There are different ways to implement the 80/20 Rule. Choose one that encourages you to exercise restraint but also remain positive. Some ways you can apply the rule are by monitoring your consumption daily, weekly, or in calories.
  • Moderation still matters. Be careful not to over-indulge. Use serving size and portion control guides to determine how much of your chosen treat is reasonable to eat in one sitting.
  • Vegetable, vegetables, vegetables (& fruit). Have an abundance of diverse vegetables on the menu. Be careful not to diminish their nutritional value by overcooking or using excessive amounts of sugar, salt, or sauce. Tweaking your recipes and reconsidering how you cook holiday vegetables is an easy way to make sure you stick to the 80% healthy rule.
  • Choose the healthier option. Whenever possible, go with the healthier choice. Do your research, and be open to trying new ingredients, brands, and flavors. For example, if you typically drink semi or off-dry wines as your holiday indulgence, try a dry wine this year. They tend to have less residual sugar.
  • Adjust your workout plan. If you don’t expect to exercise on Thanksgiving Day, rearrange your workout schedule to ensure you get enough physical exercise that week. You may also try moving your physical activity to the morning before you put on your chef hat. You can even round up the family for a brisk walk around the neighborhood sometime during the day.
  • Manage your leftovers. Dig into your guilty pleasures while making plans to minimize leftovers and how long you eat them. Only cook enough food for the number of guests you expect. Encourage visitors to take some of whatever is left over to reduce the temptation of cheating on a non-cheat day. Also, find healthy ways to use leftovers like these 50+ healthy ways to use leftover turkey from CookingLight.com.
  •  Food is food. Remember that healthy meals are not punishments and cheat meals are not rewards, but there are designated times for both. It is important to do your best to follow the rule, so you maintain all the wonderful progress you have made to become healthier this year.