The holidays can be a real test of willpower for those who are struggling with their weight. And nothing can put a downer on this season of joy like worrying about overindulging.
The good news is there are ways you can savor the culinary delights of the holidays and still be healthy. When you face daily food temptations, keep calm and plan to be a bit more flexible this time of year. Here are some tips for nourishing your body while joining in on the festivities.
No. 1 Fill Your Plate with Fewer Calories
You can enjoy a full plate of food when it consists of leafy green salads, vegetable dishes, and lean proteins (chicken and fish), and includes smaller portions of richer options. By the time you fill up on protein and a side of vegetables, you’ll eat less in the way of empty carbs. Beware though, not all holiday vegetables are healthy options — for example, green bean casserole and yams drenched in marshmallows.
Try to avoid foods that are fried or cooked in oil or butter, and skip heavily sugared or carbonated drinks. A good strategy is to reduce things like sugar load and saturated fats to promote a fat-burning metabolism. That way, you can eat a larger amount of food for fewer calories and not feel deprived.
No. 2 Reach for Water
When the weather is cold and dry, it’s important to stay hydrated. Being hydrated curbs sugar cravings and often prevents overeating. But what drink you reach for is just as important. If you notice a craving for junk food, use that feeling as a trigger to first reach for a full glass of water. Then, re-assess your craving before indulging.
Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and lead to poor eating choices. Try to choose low- to no-sugar drinks to cut down on calories and carbs. A wine spritzer (wine and club soda mix) is a great way to slow alcohol consumption and reduce sugar intake.
No. 3 Replace White with Wheat
Rolls and breads are often in abundance at holiday dinner tables but they can be chock-full of unhealthy fiber. Eating whole-grain wheat products in place of simple or processed carbohydrates will provide additional fiber and nutrients, and keep you feeling fuller longer.
No. 4 Bring a Best-for-You Food
Think about bringing your own healthy dish to a gathering to ensure you have something to indulge in. This might be a hot soup to be eaten as a first course. Just be sure to make it broth-based rather than cream-based. Or, swap out low-fat dairy in place of full-fat products to make a healthier version of your favorite soup. This easy step alone can reduce calories and saturated fat without sacrificing taste and satisfaction. It will also help you avoid overeating during the main course.
No. 5 Stash Healthy Snacks at the Office
Communal office goodies this time of year can really take you off your game. Before you allow yourself a splurge, try eating something healthy like a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts (and then walk around the office for five minutes or climb a few flights of stairs).
Plan on taking office-time tempts home with you and delaying the indulgence until just before bedtime. At that point, you will be less likely to crave another treat immediately than you would during your afternoon coffee break, especially if more of the treat isn’t in sight.
No. 6 Choose Your Indulgences Wisely
We know, dessert and sugary treats literally makes life a little sweeter, and they’re in abundance this time of year. But most desserts are high in calories, fat, and cholesterol. If you still want something a little sweet, order a sorbet, frozen yogurt or fresh fruit instead. You can even satisfy a sweet tooth by choosing a dessert wine, which is rich in resveratrol, a compound found in wine that may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
During the holidays, it is particularly important and eye-opening to keep tracking your food intake and activity level if you have beforehand.
You can try written journals or a mobile app to input your data on food, beverages and even exercise.
Logging this information can help you be more mindful of your intake and activity levels and provide opportunities to identify balance. For instance, if you choose to indulge a little, then add a little more activity to your day to help add balance.
At the end of the day, allow yourself some grace. Occasionally you might want a food that is not the healthiest choice, or it may be a comfort food you crave, and that’s OK in moderation. Eat a smaller portion or see if you can share with someone. But don’t beat yourself up about it. Enjoy your food and keep a positive perspective.
Be mindful of making healthier choices later that day, whether that means choosing healthier foods or making a plan to take a little post-meal stroll. Acknowledge that you indulged, but it doesn’t mean you’ve completely derailed, and trust in yourself that you’ll get back on track to your usual healthy eating despite this small indulgence.
Statistically, people tend to gain some weight over the holidays, but you can go into the season with the intention of having a healthy holiday!
If you have questions about how to eat healthy and enjoy the holiday experience, contact us at 1-866-455-2810 to find a dietitian.