Ring in this season of holiday eating with a new mindset: “Enjoy the offerings, but accept no ‘gifts’ of unwanted pounds.” The bounty of eating festivities kicks off with Thanksgiving and relentlessly persists for several weeks with office parties, family gatherings and cocktail happenings that can quickly add up to extra calories along with a new winter layer. Make this season different while still enjoying all the good flavors and fun with this guilt-free holiday eating guide.
Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner daily: Research shows that skipping meals (especially breakfast) in an effort to save calories leads to overeating later in the day. When party time rolls around, you are ravenous and may end up overindulging as you feel you deserve to since “after all, you skipped lunch.” Keeping yourself fueled for the day will keep big eating swings from occurring.
Include lean protein at meals: Researchers now know that protein (about 15-20 grams) at each meal helps curb your appetite through a series of mechanisms in the brain that control eating behavior and hunger. So rather than making a meal out of holiday cookies, enjoy 3-4 ounces of lean protein such as roasted poultry, firm tofu in a stir fry or seafood and have just a few holiday treats.
Bring veggies or another healthful holiday dish: Offer to bring roasted or raw veggies to your next holiday gathering. Whether you bring a side dish or appetizer, everyone including you will appreciate the filling fiber and low-calorie option. Also look online for recipes for healthier versions of traditional holiday treats to bring to your next gathering—your dish will certainly be a point of conversation!
Make a party-eating plan: Rather than being overwhelmed by a huge spread of food and drink when you arrive, have an eat-and-drink strategy before you attend.
- At you next sit-down dinner, make your plate a clock in your mind, and serve up at least 30 minutes of veggies and fruit; aim for 10-15 minutes of lean protein and the remaining “minutes” can be clean carbs such as mashed potatoes with skins, cooked whole-grains like farro or baked sweet potatoes. If healthful choices are not available, serve yourself smaller portions—you can always go back for more (and if you wait long enough you may not feel like having seconds)!
- At stand-up cocktail and appetizer parties, keep your distance from the food table to minimize mindless nibbling. When you do sample the food, opt for special choices such as a festive appetizer or holiday cookie rather than simple chips and dip which you could eat any time of the year.
Take time for daily exercise: Holiday times comes with stress (almost no escaping this!), and what better way to alleviate stress than taking time for yourself to walk, jog, cycle or whatever activity suits you? Not only will you burn calories to help keep your weight in check, but according to sports psychologists, moving your body can also mitigate stress and help improve the quality of your sleep so precious during this busy season.
Dr. Liz Applegate, PhD is Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of California, Davis, a nationally renowned expert on nutrition and fitness, and nutrition advisor for Nugget Market, Inc., owner of Sonoma Market and Glen Ellen Village Market. Dr. Applegate is the author of several nutrition and fitness books, in addition to the popular “Fridge Wisdom” nutrition column for Runners’ World Magazine and Nugget Market, Inc.’s “Health Notes by Dr. Liz.”