Written By Julie Paiva, CHHC
Many of us experience weight gain during the festive winter months, but packing on a few pounds in December is far from inevitable. Is it possible to celebrate the season without increasing the number on the scale? You bet! Don’t get me wrong: The holiday season is all about celebrating, togetherness, and indulging— but in moderation. Staying on track can seem so daunting. It is easy to feel like devouring all those sugar plums dancing in your head and sending your sensible routine and healthy lifestyle into hibernation until the New Year. But as we all know, excess pounds don’t disappear along with the decorations. And nobody wants to start the new year feeling bloated and guilty of self-sabotage. Here are some tips to help you keep on track during your holiday festivities.
Eat before drinking and celebrating
Skipping breakfast or lunch in order to “save your appetite” probably isn’t the best weight-maintenance tactic. Stick to a reasonably sized breakfast with plenty of protein, which will keep you fuller longer and temper the urge to stuff your face later. If you aren’t celebrating until the evening, make sure to eat a healthy lunch as well. Cutting back all day so you can indulge at an event that night only sets you up for a pig-out.
Fill up on fiber
When appetizers are circulating, fill up on the veggies. Snack on vegetables not only because they are healthy alternatives, but they are full of fiber which will help you feel full.
When presented with your holiday spread, fill up your plate with protein and veggies. This will help you feel full and keep you from eating large portions of those unhealthy sides and desserts.
Bring your own
Rather than try to figure out what’s in every dish at a friend’s party (or avoid eating altogether), bring a healthy dish to share. Taste what you want, but know you have a healthy alternative to fall back on.
Eat and chew slowly
Eating slowly may not be easy when appetizer options are endless, but it pays off to pace yourself. The quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness. So slow down and take a second to savor each bite of food. It’s easy to want to eat quickly with the urge to get back to festivities with family and friends, but eating fast is a quick recipe for an expanded waistline.
Use smaller plates
Plate sizes have expanded significantly over the years. Whenever possible, choose the smaller salad sized plates (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like one (12 inches or more). Using smaller plates can actually make us feel fuller with less food. The brain associates a big white space on the plate with less food (and smaller plates generally require smaller portions). Use an appetizer-sized plate for dinner. Then if you feel you need seconds most likely you will still be eating less than if you filled one dinner size plate to begin with.
Make room for (healthy) fats
Healthy fats like organic butter, high quality olive oil and avocados help you to feel full. We need fat in our diets to provide energy and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. So, eat up that guacamole with your veggies.
Ditch added sugar
Holiday cookies, cakes, and pies are nothing short of tempting, but all that added sugar will do nothing positive for your health or your waist line.
Just say no
Though your relatives may encourage overeating by shoving seconds onto a cleaned plate, it’s OK to respectfully decline. “I’m full” or “I’m taking a break” should be enough for friends and family members to back off (and give you time to decide if you’d really like more).
Wait before grabbing seconds
The quicker we eat a meal, the less time we give our bodies to register fullness. Since it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that dinner’s been served, it’s best to go for a walk or chat with friends before dishing up seconds.
Water will help you feel fuller while providing your body with numerous health benefits. Water does a body good!
The holiday season is challenging for everyone. So pass the eggnog and tackle navigating holiday food spreads by being smart about your choices. Set yourself up for success by sticking as close to possible to your usual eating schedule, drinking water, and packing your small sized plate with protein and veggies. Focus your holiday events around the time spent with loved ones instead of centered around sweets!