It’s that time of the year to eat, drink and be merry! But that doesn’t mean we have to kiss our waistline goodbye or sacrifice all the good work we’ve done for the other 11 months of the year to put good food into our bodies. Especially when our routine is thrown off by holiday parties and family gatherings, it can be tough to stay mindful and disciplined about our health, but the good news is that there are ways to do it and to still ENJOY the season. At The Tasteful Pantry, we’re all about loving our food, both in terms of taste and its effect on our bodies. After all, what good is it to eat delicious food then feel awful afterwards? Below are some tips from our Registered Dietitian Lea on how to survive your holiday parties with your health in tact. Scroll all the way down for our helpful infographic on steps you can take before the party, as well as these steps below on what to do at the party.
- Plan your wardrobe—wearing form-fitting clothes will make you more aware of when you are full.
- Concentrate on enjoying your friends, relatives and family (the real reason for holiday parties) rather than focusing on food. Have you noticed how hard it is to eat when you’re talking?
- If you’re socializing in the same room as the buffet, stay out of arm’s reach of the table to avoid mindless nibbling. Don’t be the first to go through the buffet line otherwise it may feel a little too natural to load up on seconds just to keep your plate full as everyone else is still on firsts.
- At a buffet, use the smallest plate available. Research shows that the larger the plate, the more will be eaten. A good strategy would be to take several items, sit down, enjoy those, and then determine if you are still hungry.
- Start your meal with low calorie veggies and lean protein (e.g. white meat turkey) then move to the indulgences. Remember the everyday healthy rule of making half your plate vegetables. Roasted root veggies are a great holiday dish.
- Then chose your favorite rich holiday foods! Think about nostalgic holiday foods that you are looking forward to—and leave the foods you can eat anytime of the year (except veggies). And remember, if you don’t love it, it’s not worth it!
- Savor your foods. Fill a plate, sit down, take small bites, put your fork down between bites and chew food slowly. This helps you to enjoy food more, keep track of what you are eating and gives your brain time to register when you are full.
- Remember your health goals. To eat healthier and save calories, skip the fried foods, cut down on the gravies and sauces (have just enough for the flavor), and go heavier on the vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains.
- Plan your beverages. Alcohol provides empty calories and is an appetite stimulant. When inhibitions are lowered you may eat more. A good rule is to have a glass of water or club soda between each drink. Good hydration helps with hangovers as well. If you plan to drink, good drink choices include liquor with club soda and ice or a glass of wine. Skip empty calorie, high sugar beverages and mixers.
- Having a (low calorie) beverage in your hand during the evening will lower your calorie count. Think about how hard it is to nibble, talk and drink a beverage at the same time. Water would be the best option of course, and it helps in digestion!
- Leave room for dessert. In trying to balance your meal, you may have smaller portions of usual holiday carb choices (stuffing, potatoes, breads) to leave space for dessert. For pies, pumpkin is lower in sugar than some of the high sugar fruit pies. Consider half portions. Or try the “three bite rule”: take three bites then put the dessert aside for a few minutes. Most likely you won’t come back to it. You’ll discover just a few tastes of a great dessert can be satisfying.
For healthier holiday eating, moderation and planning are the keys. Eat everything that you love in moderation so you don’t feel like you miss out but also don’t feel like you indulged in something that was not worth it.
Be assertive in carrying out your holiday plan. Clarify your goals then ask for support from your friends and family. Don’t allow others to sabotage your plan even though their actions are meant well. Practice the phrase, “It is wonderful, but I couldn’t eat another bite”.
Let go! Let go of the feeling of guilt when you have over indulged. Guilt has no benefit. Don’t let one evening of eating sabotage your entire holiday season. Get over it and get back to your healthy eating plan.
Most important, enjoy your holidays and remember—it’s not what you eat between Thanksgiving and New Years that makes you unhealthy, it’s what you eat between New Years and Thanksgiving!