HOW TO AVOID COMMON NUTRITIONAL PITFALLS DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON
As the holidays approach, so does an abundance of tempting and fat-laden treats and sweets. From open houses and formal dinners to office parties and cookie exchanges, it’s easy to overdo it with so much delicious food. All those extra goodies can add up to extra pounds—unless you know how to play it smart.
“It may be unrealistic to try to lose weight during the stressful holiday season, so focus on maintaining your weight,” says Debra Nessel, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Torrance Memorial Medical Center.
Many favorite foods are only available during the holidays, making it tough to stick to a strict diet. Nessel recommends planning ahead so you can still enjoy your favorite foods without going overboard.
Here are Nessel’s tips for navigating holiday buffets and potlucks:
- Maintain a regular eating schedule, starting with breakfast. Don’t skip meals because this lowers blood sugar levels and causes you to overeat later to make up for missed calories.
- Balance party meals with other meals. Eat small, healthy meals so party food won’t cause you to exceed your calorie needs for the day.
- Never go to a party hungry. Take the edge off your hunger by eating a healthy, filling snack beforehand so you won’t overeat at the event. Consider snacking on a cup of fruit with 1 ounce of low-fat cheese or ••• cup of plain Greek yogurt.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day, including a glass before the party. It will fill you up and offset dehydrating drinks.
- Check out what foods are being offered on the buffet before filling your plate. Choose your calories wisely. Fill half of a small plate with simply prepared vegetables and fruits, one-quarter with carbohydrates and the remaining quarter with lean proteins.
- Bring your own low-calorie foods to the party as an alternative. Excellent choices are veggies with a low-calorie dip or a fruit salad.
- Take small bites, chew slowly and savor each delicious bite. You’ll enjoy the food more and be less likely to overeat.
- Don’t drink your calories. Consume alcohol in moderation, if at all. Alcohol can increase your appetite, yet it reduces the number of fat calories you burn for energy.
- Don’t hang out by the buffet table. Serve your plate, then move away. Before going back for seconds, wait 15 to 20 minutes for your food to “settle.” It takes that long for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full.
If you overdo it one day, make up for it by being more conscious the next few days. Additionally, try not to make food the priority at parties and get-togethers. Savor the special time you’re spending with loved ones.
Finally, try to relax. The holidays should be a time of joy. Stress and anxiety can lead to overindulging, so keep in mind healthy ways to manage your stress: a long walk, a warm bath, a good book, singing along to favorite music, or spending time on a relaxing hobby can help you feel calm and in control.