Eating Healthy: 10 Simple and Smart Holiday-Food Coping Strategies
Holiday-proof your plan
You may not be able to control what food you’re served, and you’re bound to see other people eating a lot of tempting treats. Meet the challenges armed with a plan:
- Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served.
- Invited to a party? Offer to bring a healthy dish along.
- If you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal.
- Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast. It will be harder to keep your blood sugar in control, and you’ll be really hungry and more likely to overeat.
- If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.
Definitely savor each bite
We all know the importance of eating slowly and waiting before going for seconds, mainly because it takes 20+ minutes for your brain to get the signal that you're actually full. As a food enthusiast, I get super excited when I first set my sights on any holiday feast. Remember to pace yourself. By savoring every delicious bite, you're more likely to take your time and stop when you've had enough.
Take 10 before taking seconds. It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s “I’m getting full” signal to get to your brain. After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realize you are full, or want only a small portion of seconds.
Enjoy quality over quantity
You should really try to pick items of quality and truly indulging, rather than limiting yourself to foods that may not satisfy you and leave you wanting more.A glass of champagne and a dozen oysters at a cute restaurant will beat a pint of ice cream in front of the television any day.
We may feel full and happy the more we swallow, but it’s taste that is satisfying. With that in mind, don’t rush the foods you choose to eat. Take your time to eat a little of each chosen food and savor it, rather than gulping and missing most of the pleasure. A smaller amount can be much more enjoyable than a large one, and it leaves room for tasting more goodies without the stomachache.
Keep track of what you eat
Maintain a food diary to help you stay committed to your goals during this risky eating period.
Weigh yourself daily and use that number to guide your actions. (Food diaries are helpful, but only if you’re totally honest and diligent about recording every morsel you eat.) Research has shown that women who step on the scale every day and then act accordingly, either increasing their exercise or being stricter about their eating, are 82 percent less likely to regain lost weight than those who don’t weigh in as often.
Zip yourself into your favorite pair of slim-fitting pants once a week and note how they fit. Too tight? Adjust your eating and exercise habits. Just right? Keep up the good work.
Eat before going to a party
Before going out, have a healthy snack to curb your appetite.
Eat breakfast. This has been shown to prevent overeating later in the day.
Limit the number of high-calorie foods on your party plate. Research has shown that when faced with a variety of foods with different tastes, textures, smells, shapes, and colors, people eat more―regardless of their true hunger level. Cutting down on your personal smorgasbord can decrease what you end up eating by 20 to 40 percent.
Choose foods wisely, filling your plate with low-calorie items, such as leafy green salads, vegetable dishes, and lean proteins, and taking smaller portions of the richer ones. That way, you can eat a larger amount of food for fewer calories and not feel deprived.
Pop a sugar-free mint in your mouth. When you’ve had enough (and don’t want to eat more), the feeling of a fresh palate can curb additional noshing.
Recover quickly from a loss
Let’s be real. Even with careful planning, there will likely be at least one occasion over the holidays where you just blow it. Yes, you’ll drink the eggnog. And eat the cookies. And the ham. And then have some chips. For many of us, that can cause the classic “Oh, what the heck I’ve already blown it” reaction that leads to a few more days of eating with abandon. But if you do the math, how many extra calories did you really consume at that party?
Almost certainly it was less than the number of calories required to put on a pound. (Avoid your scale, which may inflate your weight at such times due to water retention.) But you really can gain a pound or two if you keep up the unhealthy eating. The best plan? Get back on track with healthy eating the day after a splurge, but don’t skip meals or spend half your day on the treadmill.
With all the food and booze happening, we often forget to drink enough water during the holidays, which could actually cause us to eat and drink more. That's because we often mistake the sensation of thirst for hunger. Not to mention failing to hydrate while drinking alcohol can cause you to drink more than you meant to and suffer a worse hangover. Avoid dehydration by drinking water throughout the day and refilling your glass during your holiday dinner. If consuming alcoholic beverages, be sure to limit the sugary mixes and heavy caloric beers. Alternate your alcohol with glasses of water.
Moreover, research shows that consuming about 16 ounces (two glasses) of water before a meal helped dieters eat fewer calories and lose 44% more weight over a 12-week period.
Reframe your failures
If you do overindulge, forget about it and move on.
One of the biggest ways people get stuck in a rut over the holidays is by beating themselves up after one or two less-than-healthy indulgences. Creamy dips and frosted cookies are part of the holiday experience, so if you have too many, don’t go too hard on yourself.
Instead of calling yourself a failure, try to reframe your thoughts to consider what you learned and how you can set yourself up for healthier choices in the future. Feeling guilty over food is never the answer.
When you get to the party, start off with a low-calorie, non-alcoholic drink, such as sparkling water or a diet soda. This will help quench your thirst. Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones throughout the evening.
There are more than 300 calories in a cup of eggnog, while a glass of white wine comes in at only about 120 calories. Even better, include some festive (but low sugar) non-alcoholic drinks at your party like this citrus mock mimosa.
Keep up the exercise
You’re determined to squeeze in at least one or two workouts a week, no matter how busy you get.
Break it up. If you don’t have time for your daily four-mile walk, do a few 10- or 15-minute spurts of exercise throughout the day (to accumulate the surgeon general’s recommendation of 30 minutes a day). They can be just as effective at maintaining overall fitness as one continuous workout.
Tell yourself that all the running around you’re doing (cleaning for houseguests, dashing through a million stores to find the perfect presents) can help keep your weight in check. In one Harvard study, people who were simply told that they did enough in their daily lives to meet the surgeon general’s recommendations lost weight and body fat without consciously changing a thing. A possible reason? Believing that what they were doing was having a positive effect may have led to subtle changes in their overall health behaviors.
I know that healthy holiday eating can make people anxious, but try not to get too worked up. This should be a time of celebration and also relaxation. If you do happen to eat more than you planned during this holiday season, don't beat yourself up. If you do go overboard, don't get stuck in a food rut. Follow these tips and try to get back to your healthy eating habits as soon as you possibly can.