What is your favorite part about the holidays? If you’re like most people the holidays are about two things: family and food. While celebrating around the table is great, it can also lead to eating lots of sugar that you don’t need. Eating sweets makes you crave more sweets—that’s just how the brain works. Food may be a way of showing love, but in many of our families it is doing more harm than good.

This year, challenge yourself and your family to focus on gratitude rather than food. Instead of diving into an endless buffet, infuse your holiday season with other activities that shift the focus to spending quality time together. Establishing new, healthy habits that incorporate gratitude practices will improve your family’s physical and mental health.

Here are eight easy ways to put healthy practices into your life this holiday season.

  1.  Keep a gratitude diary.
    Lots of people get stressed in the lead-up to the holidays. All the parties, shopping, and people can leave you feeling vexed. Instead of focusing on everything that you have to do, take time at the beginning or end of each day to think about three to five things that you are grateful for. Write them down for optimal effect—that way, if you’re feeling down you can remind yourself about the good things in your life.
  2. Talk about the best part of your day.
    Eating dinner together as a family is linked with many healthy benefits for parents and kids. In order to get the most out of spending time together at the table, slow down the food consumption by having great conversations. Go around the table and have each person what their favorite part of the day was. Don’t rush. Instead, talk to each person about why that moment stood out. This is an especially great habit for introducing kids to gratitude, since it’s easy for them to understand.
  3. Write a letter to someone you love or admire.
    During the holidays we’re around people we love, but don’t get to see very often. Take this opportunity to write a letter to someone telling them why they’re special to you, saying all the things you usually keep to yourself. When they come to celebrate the holidays, read them the letter, and then let them keep if for years to come. For a kid-friendly spin on this, have children write each guest a one-sentence note about why the kids are thankful for that person.
  4. Notice the nice moments. 
    With the news in the constant cycle of doom and gloom, it’s easy to find something heartbreaking or unjust to focus on. This can bring your mood down and might even trigger cravings for comfort food. Instead of getting sucked in to that cycle, focus on the positive moments throughout your day. If you’re struggling to spot them, make your own. Buying someone a coffee to engaging in another random act of kindness will kickstart a cycle of gratitude that is sure to improve your mood.
  5. Master the positive spin. 
    With the news in the constant cycle of doom and gloom, it’s easy to find something heartbreaking or unjust to focus on. This can bring your mood down and might even trigger cravings for comfort food. Instead of getting sucked in to that cycle, focus on the positive moments throughout your day. If you’re struggling to spot them, make your own. Buying someone a coffee to engaging in another random act of kindness will kickstart a cycle of gratitude that is sure to improve your mood.
  6. Go for a walk. 
    Most family celebrations center around food. This year, shake that up. Instead of diving right into dessert when dinner is done, take everyone on a walk. Even if you just go around the block, taking a walk in the fresh air is great for your physical and mental health, and is likely to kickstart conversations. And if you want to skip dessert yourself, use a Sweet Defeat before you head out. Your cravings will be gone, and when you come back, you can enjoy everyone’s company while they dig into sweets, but don’t need to indulge yourself.
  7. Play a game. 
    A little healthy competition is a great way to bond with the family over something other than what’s to eat. Whether you head into the year for a friendly game of touch football or break out the Monopoly board, make the beginning or end of your gathering about playing together rather than eating together.
  8. Shop for wholesome, healthy foods. 
    No matter how healthy you’re being, holiday celebrations are sure to focus on food in some way. Take this opportunity to talk to your loved ones about nutritious eating. Take them to the local farmers market and chose fresh, healthy foods. Then, cook together to show them just how delicious a low-sugar lifestyle can be.

No matter how healthy you’re being, holiday celebrations are sure to focus on food in some way. Take this opportunity to talk to your loved ones about nutritious eating. Take them to the local farmers market and chose fresh, healthy foods. Then, cook together to show them just how delicious a low-sugar lifestyle can be.