Beat the Holiday Bulge

It’s that lovely time of year again (at least for most)–the time to celebrate and spend quality time with family and friends.   Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, most of us are surely engulfed in the holiday spirit.  “Party here, party there, party everywhere” often means more food and drinks.  But the holiday spirit doesn’t have to be accompanied by a few extra pounds, because end of the year festivities don’t have to sabotage a healthy diet!   Below are a few tips to navigate the holiday season.  Not all of them will be realistic for you, because you know you best, but go with what works!

  • Don’t Go Starving:  Similar to my Thanksgiving suggestion, you should never go to the party famished.  Going hungry will inevitably increase your odds of overeating.  It’s best to have a well-balanced breakfast and if the party is late in the evening, a greenery-rich lunch as well.   Breakfast could be an onion and green pepper scrambled egg sandwich on whole wheat bread or a bowl of whole grain cereal, both with a piece of fruit.  Meanwhile, lunch can be a nice-sized salad, filled with your favorite veggies. 
  • Enjoy Every Bite:  I know some may think “duh, of course I enjoy my food.”  But, the reality is that most of us eat too fast, which takes a lot of the gratification out of food, believe it or not.  Engulfing your meal makes it harder to savor the various flavors and it also delays our “I’m full” hormones from kicking in, making us more prone to overeating.  Savor each bite, and you will be killing two birds with one stone!
  • Moderation:  So there’s meatballs, crab cakes, chips and dips, cookies and cakes, egg nog, and the list goes on and on.  The important thing is to go easy on how much you’re eating because all of the choices can add up.  The last thing you want to end up with is an over-filled, almost-collapsing paper plate.  Besides, enjoying a little bit (instead of a-lot-a-bit) of everything will avoid feeling stuffed like your Thanksgiving turkey (I always hate the un-button my pants moment)!
  • Avoid Seconds: If you eat small, reasonable amounts and enjoy every bite of each dish slowly, it may end up that you won’t even want seconds.  Interestingly, studies show that the enjoyment of food decreases after the first bite, which gives even more reason to skip the second plate. But if it’s inevitable for you to go back for seconds, the important thing is to not feel guilty about it (read more) and savor every bit of it.  
  • Pick and Choose:  If you have an eating style similar to mine, it might be hard for you to say no to some foods.  At the same time, there are foods that are worth skipping.  If you must get the creamy cheese dip that your co-worker only makes once a year, go for it.  Meanwhile, you can skip the meatballs that you eat at typical gatherings held throughout the year.  Attempt for balance–if you do choose the creamy cheese dip, pass on the cheese rolls!
  • More Healthy Foods: The best thing is to fill your plate with more healthier food items and less with foods that you know are best to avoid.  Of course you don’t have to fill your entire plate with the vegetable and dip tray, but still have some.  If there’s a fruit salad, along with 5 or more desserts, grab the fruit along with a small amount of your favorite sweet(s) (if you find the plural form applying to you, try to make the amount even smaller!).
  • Bring the Healthy Item:  If you read the suggestion above and thought to yourself “Where’s the vegetable tray at the holiday party anyway!?,” perhaps you should be the trendsetter at your pot-luck-style gathering.  Health doesn’t have to compromise taste, so stay tuned for healthy alternatives to holiday classics.
  • Drink Water:  Instead of heading for the sugar-laden holiday beverages, go for plain old fashioned water. This small adjustment will cut back on the amount of sugar that you’re consuming.  We’re surely reaching our daily sugar quota when we head for the dessert line!  If you drink alcohol and can’t resist your favorite holiday beverage, the bottom line is to not go over board on the empty calories (and the antioxidants in red wine don’t give you the green light to over indulge!).


As I mentioned, ALL of these suggestions may not be feasible.  The tips you gravitate towards depends on where you are in your journey, as well as your personality and eating preferences.  The important thing is to not binge, because God willing there will be next year’s holiday parties to enjoy too!

 
If you have other tips, feel free to share.

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