The holidays are filled with food temptations, and it’s easy to put on a few extra pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Desserts, carbs and alcohol are popular and plentiful, making it harder to say no to foods you normally wouldn’t eat. At many parties and gatherings, food and drink take center stage.
Some of us have a plan like this: Eat whatever I want, enjoy the holidays and get back on track after the New Year.This might not be the ideal strategy, so here are a few ideas to keep the splurging in check.
Some of these suggestions have nothing to do with foods, but are more about overall self-care. For example, try and stay physically active every day. If you normally work out, this is not the time to stop or slow down. If you aren’t a habitual exerciser, think about adding some gentle movement to your daily routine such as walking at a brisk pace or riding your bike.
Another important tip: stay hydrated. With the overabundance of sugar and alcohol tempting us, dehydration can be a concern. Alcohol and sugar can both lead to dehydration and often we mistake thirst for hunger. If drinking a glass of water can alleviate your symptoms, why not start there?
Strategies for the Cocktail Party
Eat a high fat, high protein snack before the party. If you starve yourself all day, your blood sugar may dip too low. You can get in a “panic eating” mode,grabbing anything in sight to try and raise your blood sugar. This is when we reach for the sugary carbs and make poor food choices.
Instead of starving, eat a high fat/high protein breakfast. A couple of eggs, some bacon and a slice or two of an avocado would be a great choice. Right before the event, enjoy a balanced, filling snack: an apple with a couple of TBSP’s of nut butter; a hardboiled egg; or a few slices of deli meats and parmesan cheese would be good choices.
Make a plan before you go. Decide how many drinks you are going to have, and consider setting a firm food limit. For example, I will not eat anything that has bread in it. If there is a food that you love, then plan on having one or two pieces of that appetizer and fill up the rest of the plate with more veggies, meats, a small handful of nuts, shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, or slices of salami. I recently went to a cocktail party and observed that almost 90 % of the foods offered were either with bread or served on some sort of wheat product. Since I don’t eat bread the pre party snack was a lifesaver.
Stand away from the food table. Concentrate on talking and socializing instead of eating. Have one small plate of food with one or two of your favorites. Load up on the veggies to “crowd out” the space in your stomach for poorer choices. I love this concept of crowding out the less desirable foods. The idea is to fill up on the healthy foods so that you don’t have room for the high carb/sugar laden foods.
Only eat the best part. If you make the choice to decide to eat dessert ONLY eat the best part instead of eating the entire thing. My husband is a prolific baker, so there are always sweets around. I rarely indulge nowadays, but when I did, I realized very quickly that I needed to exercise some self-control over these delicious creations. When it comes to cookies and brownies, my preference is the crispy, more well-done edges. He likes the softer innards. Why waste the calories on something that isn’t your favorite? And if you taste something and don’t really LOVE it, subtly transfer it into a napkin.
Chew thoroughly and really savor each bite before you eat another bite.
Strategies for Holiday Meals
When baking, cut sugar in recipes by half. Surprisingly, it won’t affect the texture or baking outcome. You can also substitute the unhealthy fats for healthier choices. For example, instead of vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, or margarine, use avocado or olive oil, coconut oil or butter.
Cook from scratch whenever possible. Look at the ingredients in prepackaged foods! Usually there are a ton of “mystery” ingredients consisting of fillers, additives, sugar, sodium and chemicals. These additives are designed to create flavor, since most of the original flavor of the fresh ingredients has been processed out of existence. If you make your own food, there are fewer ingredients and less harmful additives.
Watch your Meal Ratio. Aim for a plate that’s 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carbohydrate. Often people blame after dinner fatigue on the turkey, when in reality it is a carb overload. Look at the typical Thanksgiving meal…mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (candied, with marshmallows in top,) rolls, mac and cheese, stuffing…it’s a carb bonanza. Consider cutting down the carbs and replace a couple of dishes with fresh veggies on the side. Here are a few easy ideas:
I'm Amy Baragar, and I believe food is our first medicine. As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I love helping people feel better with easy steps to healthy eating.