When you are busy and stressed, it is easy to fall back into old eating habits, especially when cooking from scratch takes more time up front than opening a box. Also, it can be difficult to resist typical holiday treats when getting together with family and friends. There are a few things I’ve done that help me to stay on track. When I find myself relying on convenience food too often, I get stricter about actually writing down a menu plan for a few weeks. This helps get me back into the habit of thinking ahead to prepare meals: soak beans the night before, make bread in time to eat sandwiches, press water out of the tofu a few hours before cooking with it, make double of some meals to freeze, put ingredients in the crockpot in the morning, and so on. When I meal plan, I spend more time thinking about a new recipe I can try, new combinations to eat together, how to prepare something faster, which days I’ll need leftovers or something quick, or new flavors to try in an old recipe. It is easier to stick with menu planning at first if you commit to doing it on a particular day each week. Otherwise, it is too easy to put it off and just wing it in the kitchen. If you are as talented as Cherie, that may work for you, but I do better with a plan even if I change some of it throughout the week. I find that I eat most, if not all, produce before it spoils and spend less money on food when I plan my meals each week.
A vision board is something else that can help you stay on track for achieving your healthy eating goals. It is a place where you post inspirational quotes, pictures, and anything else that helps you visualize what you want to achieve and reminds you to make long term choices over short term gratification. I have one for my exercise goals and it is helping me. Mine is on the back of my bedroom door near my computer, so I see it several times everyday and it is relatively private. You could post healthy eating pics and quotes on the refrigerator or somewhere else in the kitchen to remind yourself of long term goals when you’re about to give in to a short term craving.
Putting tempting food out of sight or if possible, out of the house, is another way to help yourself change to healthy eating. If you have to resist something every time you go into the kitchen or open the cupboard or pantry, you will inevitably give in, but if you rarely see that tempting junk food, you are much less likely to binge. Put out what you want to feast on, a bowl of fruit or a veggie tray. Put it on ice if it needs to stay refrigerated.
Try out new holiday recipes now. You don’t want to be disappointed on the actual holiday if a new recipe doesn’t work out. Doing it now means you have time to tweak the recipe to make it fit your expectations or to find a totally different recipe. Plan what you’re going to eat at annual get togethers. If you make decisions ahead of time, it will be much easier to say no and stick with it when you’re actually in front of the food. Think about what substitute dishes you will need to bring. Will you need to bring enough for everyone or will no one else be interested in your substitute? Can you start a new holiday tradition with the addition of a healthy dish or two? Don’t feel like you need to say no to everything. It’s okay to splurge and eat something you normally wouldn’t for a holiday dinner. Eating a treat once, for one meal will probably not hurt you unless you have a serious medical condition.
Good luck navigating the upcoming holiday season as an herbivore!