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Eating Healthy During the Holidays

Nov 22, 2019

The holidays are a time to celebrate and enjoy connecting with family and friends. If you are anything like me, it can be a time of overindulgence.

My sister-in-law hosts our family Thanksgiving dinner. She is a wonderful hostess. We arrive at her home and immediately smell those wonderful turkey and spice aromas as we enter.  There are a variety of yummy appetizers ready for us to devour.  By the time dinner is served, I’m usually not very hungry. That doesn’t stop me from piling my plate high. Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, turnips, gravy, stuffing, and more. Then the desserts—cheesecake, pie, cookies, and candy appear  with a large bowl of freshly whipped cream. I’m starting to drool just writing about it.

Thanksgiving can be the kick-off to a season of dining excess and overeating. Holiday parties, gifts of homemade goodies, and more can make it easy to fall off the healthy eating wagon.  According the National Institutes of Health, holiday eating can account for one or two extra pounds (or more) every year. How do we become more mindful of what we consume during the holiday season?

Here are some tips on how to avoid holiday heft this year:

  1. Be realistic – don’t try to lose weight during the holidays strive for maintaining.
  2. Exercise – Once the dishes are washed, grab a few people and take a short 15-20 minute walk.
  3. Before leaving for a party eat a healthy snack – a handful of peanuts, some carrot sticks, celery and peanut butter – you won’t show up hungry and be less likely to eat as much.  This is particularly important if you are going to miss your usual meal time.
  4. Take a deep breath before filling your plate, think about what you are choosing. If you decide to allow yourself to have a special treat (maybe Nana’s special cherry squares), do so purposely and be sure to truly enjoy the seasonal treat.
  5. If you are facing a buffet table loaded with food, check out the entire selection before starting to serve yourself.  If you know what is available at the end of the buffet, you might decide to skip the dinner rolls as you begin to make your choices.
  6. If you are tempted to ask for “seconds,” stop and wait a few minutes.  It can take 10-20 minutes for our system to register a feeling of fullness.  Give yourself a few minutes to decide if you still want that second helping.
  7. Be thoughtful about beverages. Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and induce over eating; non-alcoholic beverages can be full of calories and sugar.
  8. If you overeat at one meal, go light on the next.
  9. Take the focus off food – play a card or board game rather than stand around the appetizers chatting and eating.
  10. Bring your own healthy dish to share with everyone.
  11. Pay attention to your meal while you’re eating. Focus on chewing your food well and enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each item. Don’t rush your meal. If you are going to allow yourself to have extra treats, take the time to enjoy them.
  12. Leave the table when you are done eating. Offer to help clear plates and do the dishes. You won’t be tempted to reach for more food and you’ll be getting into the holiday spirit by helping,
  13. Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. Sleep loss can make it harder to make healthy decisions about your diet. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.

Most of all, remember what the season is about—celebrating and connecting with the people you care about. When you focus more on the joy of season, the food becomes a less important aspect of the celebration.