Here's How You Can Avoid Your Unhealthy Family's Influence Over The Holidays

by Jennifer Landis
Mental Art + Design

It's the most wonderful time of the year... for unhealthy eating.

The holidays can tend to be a carb and fat festival, making it difficult time for health-minded individuals.

Between the temptation of carb-filled, fatty, sugary dishes and the emotional minefield of eating with relatives, the holidays make it harder to stick to a healthy diet.

Dreading holiday meals with your unhealthy family?

Worried about the goading, teasing, guilting and other emotional tactics they'll employ to pull you back to the dark side?

Withstand their influence by following these health-empowering tips:

1. Keep inspiration close at hand.

Is your family big on mocking your healthy choices? That's just plain stinking mean of them on multiple levels.

Not only is mocking and teasing just plain rude, but it's also extremely unhelpful.

In the latest from study-results-that-surprised-absolutely-no-one, researchers have found that your peers and family have a big influence on your eating habits.

In fact, your family made your eating habits what they are (or were). What your parents put in front of you, what they ate and how they talked about eating helped create your own food preferences and attitudes toward eating.

That makes it difficult to change your eating habits at all, let alone stick to new eating resolves when having a meal with your family.

To keep yourself from being sucked back into the family-food-hivemind, keep a bit of inspiration close at hand.

Wear an item of clothing or jewelry that has significance to your health resolutions. Keep a notes in your pocket for when temptation strikes.

Or, memorize a mantra you can repeat to yourself to drown out any unhelpful teasing.

2. Start your day right.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it's also one of the best tools in your healthy holiday eating arsenal.

Eating a healthy breakfast (or lunch or snack) before you head to a holiday meal serves a dual purpose.

First, it ensures you're not super hungry when you sit down to the holiday meal.

It's the same theory as having a snack before you grocery shop or deciding on your order before you get to a restaurant: You make bad choices when you're hungry.

Shopping while hungry usually results in unhealthy impulse purchases.

Starving when you sit down at a restaurant? You're more likely to go for an unhealthy indulgence than a healthy, lower-calorie option.

Stomach rumbling when you sit down at Aunt Ida's? Yeah, you're going to find it hard to let the rolls, buttery mashed potatoes or carbo-loaded stuffing pass you by.

A good breakfast also helps ensure you're getting a balanced diet for the day.

Know for a fact that you won't find anything green in the holiday spread?

Make a spinach or kale rich smoothie with some strawberries and bananas to balance out the flavor. Throw in some yogurt for a great source of protein.

Want your breakfast to match the holiday theme? Make a Vitamin A and protein-rich Spiced Pumpkin Pie Smoothie to get your day off to a delicious, and healthy, start.

3. Be strategic.

Your holiday diet success will owe a lot to strategic decision-making.

Before you arrive at dinner, commit to a variety of healthy holiday tricks:

- Choose your indulgences ahead of time. Are you going to splurge on rolls or stuffing or a slice of pie? Keep your chosen indulgence in mind to help you pass on the rest.

- Done eating? Start moving. Get a room's distance between you and the hors d'oeuvres, get up from the dinner table and make sure the dessert table's out of your line of sight.

- Use the buddy system. Have at least one relative who's sympathetic to your habits? Stick by them for a bit of moral support.

- Practice portion control. Make sure the largest portions on your plate are fruits, veggies and protein. Keep the high-fat, high-carb, high0sugar indulgences to smaller, two to three bite proportions.

- Bring mints. A roll of mints or a stick of gum is way less awkward than toting around your toothbrush, but it works just as well at deterring further eating.

4. Stay strong.

Holidays are already an interpersonal minefield without food guilt to get you going. It's already hard to turn down unhealthy foods, and family pressure just makes it worse.

Food is personal, which is why it's no surprise that some relatives will take your personal health decisions as a slight against them.

If a family member is open to it, share your food philosophy or the reasons for your healthy changes. But don't stress yourself trying to convert family members who are being openly antagonistic or trying to manipulate you into breaking your resolutions.

These are the times when it's important to have that bit of personal inspiration close by.

Turn to them as a reminder to stay strong. Review all the ways your health and life have improved thanks to your good habits. Think about the goals you want to meet.

And remind yourself that it's your health and your body. No one else gets a say.

5. Take control.

If you have a chance to influence a holiday meal for the better, take it!

Is the meal a potluck? Here's your chance to bring a healthy side dish.

Make a green veggie or a salad if you know everything else is bound to be beige.

If you can count on at least one fruit and one veggie dish, volunteer for a typically unhealthy side instead. But now, you can give it a healthy twist.

You don't even have to tell anyone that you made healthy adjustments or substitutions.

Are you hosting? That means the menu is yours to control.

Make sure you keep a few holiday staples on the menu, but go wild with a healthy rainbow of side dishes. This is your chance to introduce the family to delicious, healthy foods they might not otherwise try.

Tip: When introducing a healthy dish, play up an ingredient or two you know will be a hit, like the parmesan and garlic in your roasted butternut squash or the bacon in your brussels sprouts.

If all else fails, skip the family guilt trip and plan a festive, tasty, healthy event with like-minded friends.

Fill up on good food and supportive fellowship, and then, if you're feeling magnanimous, swing by the family event for dessert and coffee.

Because honestly? If you're going to get the guilt trip either way, you might as well get it for attending a meal that actually brings you joy.