Staying on Track this Holiday Season

After 2 years of isolation, we all look forward to a safe and fun holiday season. But with all the celebrations, the feasts and parties can lure us out of our daily routines. Whether a piece of pecan pie, a couple of potato latkes, or a few cookies, it’s easy to gain weight over this five-to six-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. By practicing a bit of defensive eating and cooking, you can come through the holidays without making “go on a diet” one of your New Year’s resolutions.

Budget wisely. Don’t eat everything at feasts and parties. Be choosy and spend calories judiciously on the foods you love. 

  • Rate all holiday foods from 1 to 10, ten being your favorite.  
  • Eat only your 8s, 9s and 10s, leaving out foods you do not rate highly.  
  • Avoid foods that you rate under an 8 or foods that you have regularly during the year.  

Practice portion control. Eat slowly and savor each bite. While you fill your plate, keep in mind to… 

  • Check out all your options before you start filling your plate. If you always get mashed potatoes but rarely eat stuffing, skip the potatoes. Remember, try to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables 
  • Take only the food you want, not what others think you should eat or “taste”!  
  • Take 10 minutes before taking seconds. It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s “I’m getting full” signal to get to your brain. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realize you are full or want only a small portion of seconds. 

Think Plant Based. 

  • Start a meal with either a salad or non-starchy vegetables. This practice ensures that you actually eat your vegetables which may help you fill up and eat less. 
  • Go meatless for one meal a day to add some variety to your plates and enjoy foods that can help lower blood cholesterol levels, promote blood sugar control, and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. 
  • If your holiday parties tend to go heavy on the meat-based entrees, try balancing your day with a plant-based lunch or breakfast. 

Distance helps the heart stay healthy.  

  • At a party, don’t stand next to the food table. That makes it harder to mindlessly reach for food as you talk. If you know you are prone to recreational eating, pop a mint or a stick of gum so you won’t keep reaching for the chips. Or hold something in your hand. 

Don’t go out with an empty tank.  

  • Before setting out for a party, eat something so you don’t arrive famished.  
  • Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese on whole-wheat pita bread. 

Beware of the booze. 

  • Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach. Alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat. 
  • If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water or juice-flavored seltzer in between drinks. 
  • Treat holiday cocktails like a dessert.  

Keep moving. 

  • Sedentary activities, such as sitting on the couch and watching TV are common holiday traditions for many families. Suggest taking a family walk if the weather allows.  
  • If you have an exercise routine, try to stick with it during the busy holiday season.  

Don’t forget about sleep. 

  • Adequate sleep is associated with better stress-management abilities and a healthy balance of hunger and satiety hormones. Inadequate sleep, which is defined as less than the recommended seven to nine hours per night, may lead to changes in appetite and mood. 

Pay attention to what really matters.  

  • Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter, and cheer. If you practice balance and moderation, it is okay to indulge or overeat once in a while. 
  • Remember, do not let a slip become a fall. And if you do trip, get up and pull yourself out of an unwanted food rut. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthful options, stay active and sleep well so you can end 2022 on a healthy note! 

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