Food is central to most American holiday traditions and socialization. Add in church potlucks and the goodies that are gifted, it can be difficult for clergy and church leaders to eat healthy during the holiday season even with the best intentions. While it is not wrong to enjoy the holiday treats, setting yourself up for success is important. There is a reason a common New Year’s resolution is weight loss after the holidays. With 8 out of 10 Wesleyan Clergy reporting being overweight or obese in Mook’s 2019 study, what you eat matters. The holidays tend to be a time of excess, but how can clergy enjoy the socialization aspect without overindulging? Taken from the resource below, here are five ideas for navigating the holidays.

  1. Stick to your routine. Start the day with your normal breakfast and avoid skipping meals. That will prevent you from going to events starving and overeating. If an event is occurring later than usual, try eating a snack such as nuts, string cheese, or your favorite fruit beforehand. Also, be sure to schedule time to keep up with exercise. Even if the exercise must be broken down into smaller segments, it still helps. Furthermore, take into consideration your amount of nightly sleep. The more tired an individual is the more one craves high-fat, high-sugar foods. What are some ways you can maintain your normal routine? How can you stay active and get enough rest during this busy season? 
  2. Healthy substitutions. Usually the favorite dishes are packed with salt, sugar, or butter. If you are cooking at home, try to use different seasonings instead of adding more salt, sugar, or butter. Consider the way foods are prepared. Baking and boiling is a healthier option than frying. If you are going to a party, consider taking something you enjoy such as a relish tray, fruit salad, or guacamole and chips so you know that there is at least one healthy option available. What is something you enjoy that is a healthy option you could take to an event?
  3. Control portions. Self-discipline is a must when it comes to healthy choices. One easy way to help with portion control is to take a smaller sized plate. The goal is to avoid heaping food and to choose only what will fit on the plate. You still have to be disciplined enough to not go back for seconds! Another goal is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. The remaining 50% should be split between protein and other holiday treats. Then move away from the buffet area to avoid munching. If your favorite holiday snack is at home, try to place it in a less accessible area such as the top of the cupboard you never open or in the back of the freezer. If you do want some, take out a portion and then put the rest back. This will help reduce the temptation and risk of overeating. Do the events you usually attend offer dessert plates you could use for the main line? What action can you take to reduce the temptation of indulging in your favorite treat?  
  4. Slow down. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to trigger your brain that you are full. The slower you eat, the faster your brain will recognize you are full. Once you collect your plate, move away from the buffet area and focus on the people and socializing, not just the food. Starting with those veggies and fruits that cover half your plate, eat slowly. When you reach your favorite foods, savor them. It is not that you cannot have your favorite snacks, but being disciplined in the amount will help. When your brain says you are full, stop eating. What are some things you can do to slow down when you eat?

    5. Stay hydrated. Running around between church and family programs, it can be easy to forget to stay                    hydrated. Take a water bottle with you. You are more likely to drink when you have that reminder in front of            you. Like foods, most of the holiday drinks we enjoy are also filled with sugar. Water, tea, or seltzer based              drinks are safe options to consider. If you do choose a more sugary drink, then stop after one glass and ask            for water. What is a low-calorie drink besides water that could be shared? What is the biggest excuse you              give for not drinking water?

To learn more about sleep and rest, see the following resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). 5 Healthy eating tips for the holidays.

Cleveland Clinic. (2020). Tips for eating healthy during the holidays.

Mayo Clinic. (2015). 10 healthy holiday nutrition tips. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2021). Five healthy eating tips for the holidays.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Meal prep and cooking tips. 

Physical contributor: Anna Mangimela, MSN, RN, MSRN-BC, Assistant Professor School of Nursing Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

Executive editor: Johanna Rugh

Curator of content: Dave Higle