Fun, fun – but plan, plan! Healthy choices to try for celebrations

You can enjoy fun celebrations while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

People dipping into a plate of nachos.
Photo: Videña.

Whether it is a special event, holiday celebration, or a vacation, many activities revolve around lots of food, drink and sitting. Celebrations are important to us, including the food and drink that accompany them, but special events can also bring anticipation and stressors like visiting family and friends, dealing with different personalities, managing your time and even your excitement.

How we handle these celebrations and stressors can be the difference in how we control our decisions. When we’re in control of our choices, we can have a great time and still feel accomplished afterward. When our decisions are out of control, we end up feeling guilty about our choices afterwards. This includes our choices with food and drink at celebrations.

Here are strategies to help you take control of your celebration environment and the party plans and to find ways to include healthier lifestyle choices during special occasions. These strategies are recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Proper planning can help offer healthier choices during holidays, vacations and special events:

  • Have a plan. Think about the foods that may be served at the gathering and decide what and how much you will eat.
  • Watch portions. Foods on special occasions tend to have added sugar, are higher in fat and salt with less nutrients. Think about taking smaller portions of these foods.
  • Arrive prepared. Consider bringing a dish to pass that is healthier with less fat, salt and sugar.
  • Focus your energy. Think about spending most of your time with family and friends and not at the food table.

Plan your food and drink intake for the day around the event, but don’t skip any meals. Skipping meals might make you overeat at the event. Think of ways to control your calories such as drinking lots of water, eating a healthy snack before you arrive and limiting your intake of appetizers and desserts.

Can you make physical activity a part of the event? An early morning walk or physical activity or an evening form of physical activity to complete the fun can help to work off calories and make you feel better overall.

If you have a family member or a friend that tends to push food on everyone or is continuously refilling drink glasses, mentally prepare yourself for this by creating a plan on how to handle the situation. Think about all the problems that could come up. Choose one problem and list all the ways that you could handle it. What do you need to do to make it happen, and how will you handle things that may get in the way? Plan a non-food reward for yourself if you can follow your plan.

Enjoy special occasions, vacations and holidays with a plan. Make it a healthy plan that you can achieve. Little steps to make healthier choices the easy choice is the key to maintaining that lifestyle. Remember, plan, plan, plan and practice, practice, practice. Practicing small healthy changes creates healthy habits for a lifetime. For more healthy tips and tricks, visit MSU Extension's Food & Health website.

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