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4 Tips for Enjoying Desserts in Moderation | Healthy Holiday Recipes

Updated: Oct 7, 2023

Oh, the holidays. While these certainly are the most wonderful times of the year, they can also be a little stressful for those of us working towards certain fitness and nutrition goals.

During the holidays, it’s super easy to overeat because “Christmas only comes around once a year” or have a third slice of pie because “it’s Thanksgiving and I should be able to eat whatever I want.” Nevertheless, there is always room for enjoying the foods you love in moderation. The key is not overeating simply because it’s a holiday. Additionally, there will always be reasons to indulge outside of the holidays: birthdays, anniversaries, coworkers bringing in donuts “just because.” So, rather than getting used to using celebrations as an excuse to overeat, here are four tips to enjoy desserts in moderation (during and outside of the holidays!):

1. Make a Plan

A great way to enjoy the process of baking and minimize overeating afterwards is to share your leftovers. Most dessert recipes yield anywhere from 12-24 servings. Many of us eat some of the dessert then save the leftovers. However, rather than keeping the leftovers on the kitchen counter – where it can be tempting to grab a bite whenever you walk by the kitchen – you can deliver leftovers to neighbors, bring them in to work, or share with friends and family outside of your home. You can also freeze any extra dessert and enjoy it in the following weeks. I love to prepare a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, bake a few cookies, then freeze the rest of the dough. Then, whenever my husband and I are in the mood for dessert, I’ll bake a few more cookies from the frozen dough I made before. This way, we aren’t left feeling obligated to eat 24 cookies by ourselves before they go stale.

2. Swap with Healthier Alternatives

These days, we have access to so many wonderful healthy dessert alternatives. Pinterest and Instagram offer a plethora of delicious, better-for-you desserts that can help you satisfy your sweet tooth without diverting too far from your nutrition goals.

Here are some of my favorite healthier holiday desserts (Keep in mind: just because something is labeled “healthy” doesn’t mean that it’s void of calories. It’s important to be mindful of portions even when eating healthy alternatives.)

3. Eat Smaller Portions

There is nothing wrong with enjoying a delicious, decadent dessert. Indulging from time to time is a great way to provide yourself with flexibility and variety. However, there is a difference between having one brownie and an entire pan of brownies. Indulging does not have to mean overeating. So, when you do decide to have dessert, be mindful of how much you eat. If possible, read the nutrition label on the dessert and only have one serving. If you’re at a restaurant or unable to determine what a serving is, do your best to keep in touch with your hunger cues. Try not to attach emotions or a feeling of scarcity to the dessert by telling yourself that this is the only time you get to have dessert. Slow down, enjoy the dessert, and don’t eat too far beyond fullness.

4. If You Fall, Get Back Up

We all overdo it. Especially on the holidays, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and overindulge. If you find yourself in this position, that’s okay. At that point, just regroup and try again. Consistency and long-term habits are what ultimately determine your success. One or two off days will not sabotage the progress towards your goals. With that said, try not to approach a situation with an “all out” mentality and intentionally eat more than you need to. Do your best to eat mindfully and use the tips above to help you stay on track. If you do fall, get right back up, recenter yourself, and keep moving towards your goals.

Author: Alana Cumber

Editor: Marley Carnes, MS, RDN, CSCS

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