The holidays are here and with their arrival comes a virtual onslaught of sugary and high-calorie temptations. For many people, holidays and family get togethers are a time for celebration; and yes, for food. Rounding the bend into Christmas, it can feel like the very air is filled with sugar. It’s very easy for normal eating patterns to take a backseat at this time of year, but with a few minor changes, special occasion foods can be both delicious and nutritious.
There are no “good” and “bad” foods, only good and bad eating habits. What matters most is the total amount and types of food you eat over several days. If you can prepare for days when temptations will be running high, you can consciously choose not to indulge on the days when nothing special is going on. On those days, simply select more fruits and vegetables, which are packed with important vitamins and minerals. Excess weight gain during the holidays often comes from eating too many high-fat or high-sugar holiday foods.
Before a holiday event, eat a snack or light meal. Foods high in protein, like chicken or cottage cheese, help you to eat less later. Fasting ahead of time to leave room for a big meal or extra trips to the buffet may lead you to overeat.
Look for healthy substitutes for ingredients when you whip up your own favorite holiday fare. You may be able to use low-fat or skim milk products instead of whole milk products in many dishes. In some baked goods, you can swap applesauce for oil. Switching ingredients can create tasty results without the high calories that often come with rich foods.
Offer to bring a low-calorie dish to holiday parties. Your host might appreciate it, and you’ll know that at least one healthy item will be on hand.
Here are a few more strategies to help keep your diet balanced:
Eat smaller portions of food. This is especially important at a buffet, where you may want to try everything. Choose the items you want to try the most, and eat a small portion of each.
Eat slowly. Many times, people eat so fast that their stomachs don’t have enough time to register that they are full. Savor each bite and enjoy the taste of the food — chances are you will eat less. If the food doesn’t taste as good as you expected, stop eating it and choose something else.
Don’t park yourself in front of the buffet at a party. Mingle! If you stand by the buffet, you’ll eat more than you would if it was across the room. Survey all of the food at a buffet before making your choices. Choose the foods that you really want most at that time and remind yourself that you can have the other foods at a later time.
Be realistic. Don’t try to diet during the holidays; just aim to maintain your present weight.
Most importantly – Focus on the fun, not the food. The holidays aren’t just about food. They’re about friends and family too. Use the season to spend time catching up with friends and loved ones, and participating in community events. Bring the focus away from eating and celebrate the people in your life at this time of year. With just a little bit of discipline, you’ll have your own great recipe for the holidays, without regret next time you step on the scale.