Here come the holidays!  Halloween has past and here we go, Thanksgiving and Christmas will soon be upon us! For many, dietary and exercise behaviors begin to shift as the focus lands on parties, gifts, shopping, and other holiday events. Unfortunately, those behaviors aren’t usually shifting in a healthy direction. For example, many of my clients report significant increases in eating out with all the running around – it seems easier to simply pick something up than make it at home.

That being said, I’m a true believer in enjoying the holidays which includes delicious foods and engaging in all the holiday season brings! I’m also a busy mama, (my children are ages 4, 2, and 1) so I understand the pull to spend less time in the kitchen. But, I don’t think you have to throw your healthy habits out completely to accommodate the “crazy” of the season.

So, here are some tips for decreasing the reliance on eating out as you plan for your holiday season:

  • Use that slow cooker! Your crock pot can easily become your best kitchen tool. Throw something in in the morning to have it ready by the time you need it. Or even cook your meal as you sleep. You can place it in the fridge in the morning and you have a meal ready to heat up when you return home.
  • Do some bulk cooking on the weekends or other days when you have more time available. Leftovers can last 3-4days when properly refrigerated so cook enough staples to have them available for a quick meal.
  • Keep it simple. It’s okay to serve yourself meals that reflect what you may have eaten as a child for easy/fast cooking. It’s just as fast to cook a quesadilla as it is to drive through and grab a meal. (And a lot cheaper!) Add a piece of fruit on the side and/or some chopped vegetables into the quesadilla and you’ve got a well-balanced dinner.
  • Pick up food from your grocer’s deli. Yes, I know there’s fried chicken, doughnuts and other high calorie foods. But you can also pick up a bagged salad, a rotisserie chicken and some whole grain bread….even sushi. This has been a growing market which means the options have gotten better and the variety has grown.
  • Keep freezer items readily available, especially the steamable ones. Frozen vegetables, grains, and leans meats (such as chicken breast strips) are readily available and provide a healthy, quick cooking option. Just be mindful that any added sauces can mean high sodium, so check out the label before or stick to products without added sauces.
  • Breakfast for dinner can be a great family meal and provide quick- cooking options. Breakfast burritos made with eggs, cheese, and vegetables on a whole grain tortilla makes a well-balanced and healthy option (even breakfast tacos on corn tortillas). Omelets, whole-grain waffles with peanut butter and fruit….breakfast items are typically fast cooking meals for a reason!
  • Host a freezer meal party or attend a freezer meal workshop for stocking up on ready-to-eat/throw it in the crock pot meals. Check out for hosting a freezer meal party. Or contact Young Chef’s Academy of Fresno to find out their next “Busy Ladies Freezer Meal” Event to create 10 freezer meals in one afternoon.

The goal is not to avoid eating out altogether but to limit it during this busy season! With some planning and adequate groceries in the house, you can save money and stick with your health goals this November through January.