Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but those treats sure look delightful. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time for visiting with family and friends, spreading holiday cheer, and filling our bellies with delicious holiday treats. Before we know it, though, those treats will have our bellies shaking like bowls full of jelly.
Americans typically gain between five and 10 pounds during the holiday season. It’s a time when many stray from healthier options to indulge in the season’s tastiest traditions. Sure, we vow to lose the weight in the New Year, but it is possible to skip the resolution altogether by eating a little healthier during the holidays.
Healthy holiday eating does not mean you have to give up your favorite festive treats or go on a diet. Instead, set realistic goals knowing that attempting to lose weight during the holidays will increase your stress level and prove to be quite a challenge. Focus on maintaining your current weight so you don’t have to lose those extra pounds later.
Here are some helpful tips for making the most of a healthy holiday season:
• Do not skip meals. You might think it’s a good idea to skip early meals in order to save room and calories for a big dinner, but eating breakfast will help prevent you from overeating later.
• Balance what you eat. If you eat a big, carb-loaded breakfast, you might want to reach for the veggies and lean meat at dinner.
• Eat a snack. Before you head out to your New Year’s Eve party, grab a healthy snack to decrease your hunger. Something small like an apple with some peanut butter or carrots with hummus can help you avoid ravaging the buffet.
• Grab a smaller plate. If you can, reach for a smaller plate that will help you decrease your portion sizes.
• Pass the veggies. Starting with veggies and/or salad before you begin eating your main course can help fill you up so you eat less of the calorie-dense foods. If you’re starting with salad, beware of croutons and dressings, which can easily add extra calories to your meal before you make it to dessert.
• Chew slowly. Those who eat slowly and relish each bite of their food tend to eat less than those who inhale everything on their plate. This way you can enjoy the seasonal flavors without overdoing it.
• Know all of your options. Make sure to check out all of the available food choices before you make your selections. This way you can plan what to eat and choose a few high-calorie items to splurge on and those to avoid.
• Wait for seconds. Sit for 10 minutes before taking a second helping. This way you can assess if you’re actually still hungry or if you’re satisfied.
• Mind your beverages. Remember that beverages contain calories as well. Alcoholic beverages are especially high in calories, so make sure to consume in moderation and drink multiple glasses of water.
• Keep your lips moving. Conversation doesn’t rack up calories, and it keeps your mouth and mind distracted, so keep chatting the whole night through. Just make sure to move away from the food so you don’t feel the need to snack while you talk.
• Get your groove on! Staying active during your event can help deter you from eating while burning calories. If there’s an opportunity to dance, do it! If you can take a stroll outside, get out there! Make any effort to get in some extra movement.
It’s hard for anyone to stay away from all treats during the holidays, but if you use these tips with a dose of self-discipline, you can maintain your weight through the chaos. Just doing that is worth celebrating!
Miranda Shearin, RD, is a registered dietician and outpatient nutrition educator at The Lifestyle Center at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in nutrition and exercise and completed her dietetic internship at the Virginia Department of Health. A Chesapeake native, Shearin has been a registered dietician for 14 years and helps her patients with diabetes, weight loss, high cholesterol, and more. For information on nutrition programs offered at the Lifestyle Center, call 757-312-6132 or visit www.chesapeakeregional.com.