From Halloween to New Years Eve, every year closes out with plenty of opportunities to celebrate. Those celebrations often include some food fests that seem destined to expand waistlines. Whether you’re actively dieting or just trying to make good choices, eating healthy during the holidays doesn’t have to be difficult. With moderation and balance, you can enjoy all the goodies without feeling guilty.
Start by filling up on the good stuff. Follow the “MyPlate” model and put fruits and vegetables on at least half of your plate. Add whole grains and protein. Be sure to eat slowly, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you’ve eaten enough. So taking the time to chew thoroughly and savor each bite will let you enjoy the flavors while allowing your stomach time to give you the signal to stop.
How do you know if you’re overeating? After about ten minutes, take a moment between bites and ask yourself, “Am I still enjoying this?” If the answer is yes, then take a few bites more. If the answer is no, you might want to take a break before indulging in the next course (or desserts).
If you’re invited to a meal and you want to be sure you’ve got good options, offer to bring a healthy dish or appetizer tray of veggies. This way, if you aren’t sure what may be served, you’ll have something to snack on. And before digging in, take a moment to review all of the options available so you can plan what you want. This allows you to carefully portion your plate and keeps you from overeating.
Don’t let hunger get the better of you. Some people try to skip a meal in anticipation of a big family meal. This will backfire, causing you to overeat and feel stuffed. Eat a small breakfast to start your day and a small healthy lunch. You’ll still be ready for the main event but you won’t be tempted to load up on sugar and carbohydrates.
Sometimes the main dinner is an hour or two later than your normal meal times, so you’re more hungry than usual. Eat small healthy snacks between meals to help you get past the hangries. Apple slices, carrot sticks and similar items can help you handle hunger.
Many people indulge in alcoholic beverages during the holidays thinking that liquid calories don’t have an impact. But that’s really not true. Alcoholic beverages vary in serving sizes, so their calorie count varies. For instance, a cup of eggnog may have 250 calories or more for just a single serving. If you choose to have alcohol with your meals, treat it like dessert and restrict how much you have. Include low-calorie mixers like diet soda to help cut calories. To stay hydrated and minimize your intake, alternate between alcohol and water.
Yes you can have dessert! That’s one of the highlights of the holidays, the once a year dessert selections. But instead of one large helping of a favorite, try mini portions of several kinds. You can also try no sugar added varieties of sweet potato or berry pies. And if you do plan to have sweets, cut back on the carbs like potatoes and bread during dinner to save yourself for the big finish. Holiday Hack: Have pumpkin pie instead of pecan. Even if you add whipped cream you’ll cut your sugar and calories by one-third.
Avoid the after Thanksgiving food coma by getting up and moving around. Some families plan activities for after the meal to get everyone moving. At minimum, get a walk in. Walking is one of the best habits you can have during the holidays. It’s especially helpful after a big meal. There are many studies that point to a 15 – 20 minute walk as an effective way of easing digestion and stabilizing blood sugar levels. So take a walk to work off some of those calories.
Get your rest. When you’re tired you will be more tempted to overeat or make poor choices. A good 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly will help you stay healthy and improve your mental functions. By getting your rest ahead of the traditional holiday meal you’ll avoid mindless eating.
The holiday season is full of wonderful food. But remember to keep the focus on family, friends and having fun together. If you keep your food choices in balance, you can indulge in those treats that only come around once a year. And if you find yourself going a bit overboard, don’t give in to the guilt. Just try to get back to healthy eating as soon as you can.