Nutrition 101

Making it Through the Holidays!

It is that time again – get ready to get swept up into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. As a dietitian, I want to remind you not to throw all dietary caution to the wind as the year winds down. But, I also want to reinforce that you do not need to deprive yourself and feel guilty after enjoying an extra treat. Yes, you can make it through this holiday season without gaining those few extra pounds. If food is your thing, you can avoid dread and regret when you wake up on New Year’s Day. Read on for some helpful tips and reminders so you can enjoy a delicious, yet healthy remainder of the year.

  • You can eat everything you want – just not all in one day, and maybe not an “all-you-can-eat” portion. Budget wisely, be choosy and spend your calories on those foods you love. Savor each bite and enjoy.
  • Take a break. Do you look for seconds before you take your last bite off your plate? If so, have a glass of water, drink a cup of coffee or engage in conversation. By waiting at least 10 minutes before rushing to consume more food, your stomach and brain get a chance to register fullness. You may very well find that you are quite content or that a small portion of food, and not an entire plateful of food, will satisfy your appetite. Be honest with yourself. Are you really that hungry, or do you just want to eat?
  • Give yourself some space. For some of us, being “on top” of the food can be an invitation to eat, making it difficult to avoid mindless eating and/or cravings. If you cannot give yourself a “safe” distance from the food, grab a nonalcoholic beverage or pop a mint or piece of gum in your mouth.
  • Do not arrive to a dinner or party on an empty stomach. Have a pre-party snack that combines a bit of protein with a complex carbohydrate along with some healthy fat. Think hummus with vegetables, nut butter with an apple or some turkey on a small whole wheat pita. This should help curb your appetite, hopefully encouraging you to be more careful with your food choices.
  • Do not skip meals. Period. If you are trying to cut back in anticipation of a party, or as a result of a splurge, aim to keep on track and maintain an eating schedule. This will reduce the likelihood of a binge moving forward.
  • Drink Wisely. Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach. Alcohol may increase your appetite and diminish your ability to watch what you eat. There is a difference between a glass of eggnog at 300 calories/8 oz serving (and that is without the alcohol) and seltzer water at 0 calories. Balance it out. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water or a juice flavored seltzer in between drinks.
  • Be discerning. 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.
  • Speaking of vegetables, some people find it helpful to start their meal with a salad or enjoy the non-starchy vegetables on their plate first. This practice ensures that you actually eat your vegetables, which, because of the fiber content, may help you fill up and eat less.
  • Take control. If the party is at your house, you are in charge! Load your menu up with whole grains, lean meats, chicken and fish, plenty of vegetables and portion-controlled desserts. Cook (or order) from your heart. Nobody needs every dish to be slathered with creamy sauces or butter. Use healthful swaps. Send people home with leftovers. You get the picture!
  • The perfect ending. Whether you are at a party face to face with a table or desserts or someone hands you a plate of holiday cookies, sweets are hard to avoid this time of year. While fruit is “nature’s candy,” it may fall short of your expectations during all the festivities. Lose the guilt and have a bite of your favorite dessert. The first taste is always the best. Cut a small piece of cake, enjoy a couple cookies. Savor the flavor. Remember to stop while you are ahead. Be mindful.

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 2019 on a healthy note!

What tips and tricks to you practice during the holiday season?

For ways to enjoy your leftovers this season, check out Spotlight on Taste!