With the holidays fast approaching, it’s all about quality time with family, friends, good food and some relaxation. In addition to this, there commonly comes the act of indulgence and overeating. Many people pull out the phrase “I’m on holidays” as a way to justify the excess intake of food they may not consume on a usual day. That being said, there are many ways to enjoy the holidays, including taking comfort in some of your mom’s traditional recipes. However, the idea is to make sure these occurrences don’t become a habit that lasts from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Here are some tricks you can try to help combat the stubborn “food baby” that often pops up after holiday meals.
Don’t skip meals.
As much as you may want to skip or have a smaller meal prior to the big celebration, this could actually do more harm than good. Saving your appetite and calories just to gorge at dinner-time will more likely than not result in overeating. If you deprive yourself of food for too long before a meal, once the food arrives, your self-control will be out the window. This could lead to a plate (or 2 or 3) full of foods high in fat, sugar and extra calories that wouldn’t have been added to your plate if you had been eating regularly throughout the day. Have you ever had an overwhelming sense of hunger and reached for a plate full of vegetables? Most likely not.
Plan your plate.
This sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to make purposeful, healthy decisions during the holidays. First, wait until all of the food is set out before you begin loading up your plate. This will give you the opportunity to gage everything that is available and see what really appeals to you. Next, choose a smaller plate and utensils for your meal. A smaller plate will still provide you with enough room to fill you up and try your favourite holiday foods, but prevent you from overdoing the portions. Finally, start with your vegetables. How many family dinners have you been to where you get to the end of the table where the vegetables are and there’s hardly any room left on your plate? By choosing these items first, you will ensure that you’re getting your fibrous and nutrient-packed vegetables before the space on your plate runs out.
Divvy up dessert.
This is one of the best times of the year for dessert: pumpkin pie, apple crisp, mom’s famous homemade cookies; how can you resist?! But that’s the point- the longer you resist the harder it may be to say no, which could ultimately result in an overload of sugar when the craving gets too strong. The outcome of this rush of sweet treats to your system is a sudden increase of blood sugar and a quick crash soon after, leaving you tired, groggy and unable to participate in following holiday festivities. So instead of having a piece of pie, a scoop of apple crisp and some cookies on the side, try using the buddy system. Splitting dessert with a friend or family member will not only control the amount of added sugar you consume but also allow you to try more than one item, just in smaller amounts (because what’s Thanksgiving dinner without the pumpkin AND apple desserts?).
Mix in a water.
With celebrations and holidays often come alcohol and a lot of hidden calories from these drinks. And although you’re consuming calories, the alcohol won’t keep you full and satisfied the way that turkey or potatoes would, for example. In addition to this, too much alcohol can lead to an over consumption of foods high in carbohydrates, fat and sugar and quite possible a striking headache the next morning. To prevent this, mix in a water. By alternating a glass of wine, beer or spirits with a cup of water, you will keep yourself hydrated and slow down the rate of which you drink the alcohol. Consuming water can also be a good way to make sure you’re not over eating out of thirst instead of hunger, which is quite common.
Bottom line, enjoy the holidays for what they are. Balancing the time spent with family and friends with the delicious food that accompanies that, will ensure a healthier and more comfortable celebration.
Ashlen Leonard, RD, Sports Dietitian
Sports Dietitian for Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management