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Holiday Eating: How to Let Go of the Guilt and Enjoy the Food

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The holidays… the treats are plentiful, the food is rich, and the drinks enticing. Here are my tips to enjoy holiday eating without the guilt.

Holiday EatingWe’ve reached that time of year when the treats are plentiful, the food is rich, and the drinks enticing. We’ve also reached the moment when many of us start to make deals with ourselves:

“I’ll go all out until the New Year and then I’ll reset in a big way.”

“I’ll go nuts today and then will only eat salad and exercise every day for the rest of the week.”

“I’ll only eat a little bit/skip all the carbs/avoid anything with sugar, so that I can have X, Y, or Z.”

I know these deals because I used to make them with myself, not just at the holidays, but all year round. My eating was in a constant state of negotiation, until I learned to let go, listen to my body’s cues, and enjoy food again.

It wasn’t an overnight change, but this switch changed my life, so I wanted to share some of the baby steps that helped me to get to where I am (modified for the season we are in, so that maybe you can enjoy the holiday goodies, while staying sane in the process).

Holiday Eating: How Let Go of the Guilt and Enjoy the Food

roasted carrot and beet salad with goat cheese

Look for (Natural) Color:

Often I hear things like, follow the 80/20 rule (80% of your food is healthy and 20% are treats), but that can get complicated and stressful (not to mention, who wants to follow rules at a celebration?!), so instead, I try to look for color in the food because that usually equates to fruits and vegetables, which will help me to keep things balanced. Plus, who doesn’t love a good crudité platter with a delicious dip or a roasted vegetable salad?

eat with attention

Eat with Attention:

Fill your plate with all the things that you are excited to eat and then, while you eat, check in with yourself. Am I eating slowly enough that my body has time to tell me when I am getting full? Am I enjoying this cookie or is it really not that great? (Hint: if it’s not that great, put it down and try something else. There’s no reason to eat foods we don’t enjoy.)

Mini-Fillo Raspberry Cheesecake Bites

Start Small:

I love getting seconds (and thirds). I really enjoy the opportunity to have more of the foods I truly love- it makes the meal feel decadent and special. So, knowing this about myself, I always try to start with a smaller plate of food that has small servings of several items so that I can try everything and then see what I want to go back to get more of.

spinach and quinoa salad

Front Load the Day:

If I know that I am going to be having a heavy, rich dinner I’ll try to focus on fresh, veggie-packed foods earlier in the day. Some of my favorites at this time of year are puréed vegetable soups, sautéed greens, and vegetable stews.

drink water

Drink Water:

Many times, low-grade hunger is actually a sign of dehydration, so I try to make sure that I am drinking water all day and alternating other drinks (cough, cough wine) with a glass of water, to keep myself hydrated and happy.

Cooking with boys


Home cooked foods are almost always going to be healthier than the store-bought or restaurant alternatives, so I try to make my own wherever possible. From cookies and cakes to soups and salads.

Holiday Treat

Let Go of the Guilt:

Even when I am at my best on these things, I will still sometimes get that nasty voice in my head that tells me that I am being bad. I tell that voice to shut it and do my best to move on. Sometimes this happens easily, sometimes not, but at least it is a way to remind myself that it is ok to be imperfect and ok to love myself as I am, so that I can go back to enjoying the celebration.

Do you have tricks to enjoying the holiday eating without the guilt? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! And if you could use some support in cooking more and loading your days with fresh, delicious food, try out the free trial of our meal planning service to see how simple preparing meals can be!

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