The holidays seem to bring more of everything: more shopping, more parties, more cheer—and more dietary landmines.
Eating healthy during this time of year can be difficult. Tasty treats leap out at us from every direction and calorie-laden beverages flow like water. With the stress of the holidays and possibly alcohol compromising our willpower, it becomes even harder to resist the temptation of the buffet table.
Of course, it’s important to enjoy the delectable fare without putting undue pressure on yourself to stick to a strict diet, but if holiday parties tend to derail your healthy eating habits, a few changes might be in order.
Experts agree that formulating a holiday eating strategy for all those social events can make a big difference. Below are some tips to help you navigate the holiday party season like a pro:
- Eat before you go. Skipping meals during the day and “saving up” your daily calories for the evening feast is a common strategy for holiday eating, but it’s a bit backwards. When you haven’t eaten, you’re more likely to overindulge on all those rich, fatty foods. Instead, eat nutritious meals throughout the day and grab a light snack, such as a piece of fruit or raw veggies, right before you leave. You’ll be more likely to make healthy choices later.
- Limit the worst offenders. Some holiday foods are better for you than others, so load up your plate with the good ones and keep the rest to a minimum. Fill up on sweet potatoes, cranberries, turkey and green beans first before taking small helpings of dip, creamy soups, mashed potatoes or pecan pie. If an indulgent beverage is in order, opt for hot cocoa instead of eggnog.
- Browse the buffet before sampling. Before you begin filling your plate, check out all of the food options available. Choose your favorites and leave the rest. Knowing ahead of time what is on the menu will help you spend your calories more wisely.
- Keep the food out of reach. Standing within arm’s length of the buffet table puts you right in the danger zone. You’ll be more likely to continue munching while you socialize and lose track of how much you’re eating. Instead, move around the room and visit the food only to fill your plate.
- Bring a healthy dish. If you show up for a gathering armed with something nutritious, you’ll know you have at least one healthy option available. Many traditional holiday dishes can be modified so they’re better for you. For example, refrigerating gravy beforehand allows you to skim off the fat, while the whole milk and butter in mashed potatoes can be substituted with skim milk, chicken broth, garlic and Parmesan cheese.
- Leave the table when you’re done. The longer you linger at the table, the more likely you’ll be to continue eating even after you’re full. Enjoy a leisurely meal, but remove yourself from the table, take a walk, or offer to help with the dishes.
- Chew sugarless gum. Gnawing on a piece of gum 15 minutes before hitting the buffet table or sitting down to dinner will trick your brain into thinking you’ve already eaten, so you’re less likely to overeat. Popping a mint between helpings can also help you gauge how full you are.
With some advance planning, it’s possible to emerge from the holidays with your healthy diet intact. To learn more about eating healthy and staying fit during the holidays, consult our Portland health care resources.