Upcoming holiday celebrations often bring us stress! There are a lot of unknown aspects that come along with the holiday season, including confronting meals and snacks that are not necessarily within your control. This can be freeing and exciting— exploring new foods and experiences. This can also be frustrating and scary. Each new open door may lead to foods that might be disliked and uncomfortable situations with friends and family.

So, what can you do to feel best prepared for the possibility of the unknown or unexpected? Here are some helpful tips for this upcoming holiday season:

  1. Ask beforehand. If you feel comfortable with the hosts of your upcoming holiday celebration, a simple and direct question may work best. Try asking your host: What kinds of foods are you serving tonight? What’s on the menu for your party?. These questions can help open the conversation in a direct and kind way. Sometimes, just knowing what might be on your plate can relieve your initial stress! If not, consider the next tips.
  2. Have a backup plan. If you’re unable to learn beforehand what food might be served, or if you’re not feeling comfortable around the foods potentially being served, have a backup plan. Offering to bring an item that you are comfortable with might help relieve stress for both yourself and your host. Alternatively, consider bringing a small meal for only yourself that you feel comfortable eating. Additionally, consider holding a boundary of either coming to or  leaving the event at a specific time to allow yourself time to eat your meal outside of the event.
  3. Don’t let hunger get the best of you. As Julie previously mentioned in “Intuitive Eating through the Holiday Season”, (https://balancenutritioncounseling.com/2022/11/17/intuitive-eating-through-the-holiday-season/) adequate nutrition throughout the day will help keep your brain and body functioning smoothly. No matter what time of the day or night your event might be,  ensure that you’ve had full meals at  consistent times and snacks to stay nourished throughout the day. Choose foods in combination that contain carbohydrates, protein and fat. Don’t forget to stay hydrated as well. A body and mind that is hydrated and provided nutrition is a much better baseline to rely on going into potentially stressful situations. Feeling excessively hungry when going to holiday gatherings can increase stress levels and potentially lead to either overeating or restricting.
  4. Make peace with a plate that looks different. Everyone makes a different plate, and that’s okay! Take time to make peace with this fact. Listen to your body and do your best to make choices that align with your genuine desires. Everyone will have a different looking plate, and no one else’s plate will satisfy you better than one you make for yourself. Remember that there is no “perfect” plate and that’s okay!
  5. Hold space and kindness for yourself. Make sure to take time for self-care during these times. These conversations and situations take practice to feel comfortable, especially when it comes to speaking up about your personal food choices. Allow yourself to explore the feelings and emotions surrounding food and events during this time of the year with a gentle curiosity. If you need help with further emotions or stress coming up, consider seeing a professional like a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to continue navigating tricky food situations.

Happy Holidays!

Written by: Rosalia Park, RDN, LDN