by Brooke Joanna Benlifer, RD
Holidays can be the best of times…special memories created with friends and family, sitting by the fireplace, roasting marshmallows (if you live in the Northeast), enjoying downtime and special holiday foods. Occasionally, though, the holidays can induce states of high anxiety–preparing large family meals, long days of entertaining guests, airplane travel, etc. Holidays can also be difficult if you are trying to manage your weight. Suddenly, you’re surrounded by the most tempting of foods–many of which do not top the list of “healthy choices.” That said, with a little forethought and some simple strategies, you can set yourself up for a relaxing, healthy holiday that allows you to maintain your weight during the food frenzy that spans from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day!
1. Eat a healthy snack an hour or two before the party/festivities. Choose a mix of carbohydrate and protein (apple and peanut butter, veggies and hummus, whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese, etc.). This way, you won’t be famished when you arrive and will be better equipped to make healthy choices when it comes to navigating the buffet table.
2. If you are overweight, make it your goal to maintain your weight during the holiday season. Don’t worry about losing weight. This may be too difficult, as you are faced with more food and food-related activities at this time of year. If you can maintain your weight, you’re off to a great start and can focus more closely on weight loss starting January 2nd. You’re already ahead of the game, since you won’t have to worry about having put on additional weight during the holidays.
3. At the buffet table, scan all of the food and beverage options BEFORE selecting what to eat. This way, you will choose the items you truly want, versus sampling everything.
4. Eat from a salad plate, not a large dinner plate. This will make it easier to stick to standard portion sizes.
5. Think of your plate as a pie chart. Fill the top half with fruits and vegetables (preferably grilled, steamed or raw veggies) and split the bottom half of your plate evenly between your starch (whole-grain roll, pasta, rice, etc.) and protein (chicken, fish, cheese, beans, etc.)
6. Steer clear of high calorie beverages (including alcohol, egg nog, fruit punch, regular soda, etc.). Save your calories for food instead. Foods tend to create a greater sense of satiety, or fullness, than beverages. Choose water, club soda, plain iced tea or diet soda.
7. Position yourself far away from the food after serving yourself. Focus on the non-food aspects of the occasion (friends, family, games, etc.)
8. Finally, relax and allow yourself to enjoy one helping of dessert. Choose the one you enjoy the most (or two 1/2 servings of your top two favorites) and savor the dessert guilt-free!