Why do we have New Year’s Resolutions? Could it possibly have something to do with the overindulgence of the Holiday Season?

The stress of the holiday season may be one of the reasons we overindulge. Food is comfort. Food helps with the holiday stress of dealing with crazy work and school schedules, family drama, spending more money than we should, and simply having access to more food than we normally would other times of the year.

Like many of the 15.6 million food insecure families the USDA estimates to exist in the U.S. as recently as 2015 and 2016, I grew up in a household where we eagerly looked forward to the holiday season since a normal year in our home was plagued by food insecurity. During the holidays, friends and neighbors would drop by with cookies, cakes, buñuelos and tamales. We were invited to gatherings and parties where we would stuff ourselves to capacity because we would use the excuse that it was “only once a year” and “we didn’t usually eat like this.”

As an adult, many of us continue with this same though process; “It’s only once a year!” and “I can work out or go on a diet after the holidays are over.” Unfortunately, for many of us, these so called “New Year’s Resolutions” fizzle out after a few months as new stressors may lead us to resort to food as comfort yet again.

So what are some things that we can do to try to stay healthy and adopt some healthy coping skills for our families this holiday season? I interviewed some co-workers who have children and asked them to share ideas and traditions that worked for their families:

“Establish healthy family traditions like taking walks after Thanksgiving Dinner or after opening presents on Christmas Day.” – Tim V.

“Try healthy variations of recipes and seasoning with herbs and vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise and heavy cream sauces.” – Melissa R.

“I try to teach my children how to enjoy everything in moderation. Instead of having three slices of pie, have one.” – Barbara K.

“Take the Halloween or piñata candy away from your kids even if they throw a fit. Remember that you are the parent and it is for their well-being and health.  Limit their portions to one piece a day after dinner. No one wants their kids to eat too much candy and to have a tummy ache later!” – Marta J.

In addition to establishing healthy family traditions, consider also helping a family in need by donating food to your local Food Pantry, Salvation Army or volunteering at a Soup Kitchen. The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” Many families may not qualify for public assistance but may still suffer from food insecurity and can benefit from the occasional trip to the local food pantry. Like my family, these families may have access to plenty of food during the holiday season, but may have times of financial stress at other times of the year and need to rely on community resources to fill their cupboards.

Regardless of what traditions your family chooses to adopt this holiday season, hopefully they make for a happy and healthy family year round. The holiday season may come once a year but making our families stronger is a lifelong journey!

For more information on Food Insecurity and what you can do to help locally and beyond, please see some of the following links and resources: