Avoid overindulging during the holidays

How many stops do you make during your holiday travels? And at each stop is there a table full of foods you just can’t resist?

How many stops do you make during your holiday travels? And at each stop is there a table full of foods you just can’t resist? Well trust me, you are not alone. Emily Wolff, registered dietitian with Norton Weight Management Services, says if you want to avoid the horrible holiday weight gain, you need to plan ahead.

“Planning ahead puts you at an advantage when it comes to surviving holiday meals, parties and family gatherings” Wolff said. So, what should your plan look like?

Your plan should always start with breakfast. Do not skip breakfast — or any meals for that matter — thinking you’ll “save up” the calories to spend on the holiday buffet. By skipping a meal you’ll be hungry longer, and you are opening yourself up for snacking or binge eating. Plus you’re telling yourself it’s OK to eat more since you didn’t eat earlier. This will set the stage for overindulging!

When you do sit down to eat, keep in mind that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal from your stomach that you are full. That is why it is so important to take small bites and chew your food slowly. Give yourself time to enjoy the meal, but also give yourself time to realize you are full.

Wolff recommends focusing on portion control and not depriving yourself of the foods you want. Take a minute to assess all of your food options and if there are foods you want to try, then try them. A small spoonful will provide you with the taste you desire. It also helps to eat your meals on a smaller plate. Most plates are 8 inches, so try using a 6-inch plate instead.

Once you sit down to eat, focus on your protein and vegetables first. Protein, such as turkey and chicken, plus your vegetables, like green beans, carrots and broccoli, will make you feel more satisfied. Be aware, though, of sauces, glazes and seasonings. For example, cooked carrots are great; but cooked carrots in a brown sugar glaze are not so much!

When it is time for dessert, ask yourself if you are really hungry or if your mind is just hungry for the sweet stuff. If the answer is no, you are not hungry, then remind yourself of your weight management goals. If you do decide to sample, a small portion may satisfy your craving, allowing you to taste the sweets while not ruining all of your efforts in maintaining your weight. If the answer is yes, you are hungry, consider having more protein and vegetables instead of dessert. Again, the protein and vegetables will be more satisfying.

Other ideas to try as you prepare for the holidays

If you are preparing a dish, sneak in healthier ingredients such as applesauce, sugar substitute or pumpkin (which is high in fiber and perfect for holiday recipes). Do some research ahead of time to see what you can replace in your recipe or get suggestions for a low-carb side dish. Websites such as Hungry-Girl.com and SkinnyTaste.com offer recommendations for healthier food options and provide the nutritional breakdown.

Instead of napping on the couch, take a walk after you eat. The idea is to get yourself, and others around you, up and moving. If the weather isn’t cooperating, then consider playing games or bowling on the Wii. This will set a great example for the younger generation and maybe start a new tradition for future holiday get-togethers.

It’s OK to say no. You can say no when it comes to friends and family offering you extra treats, sweets and goodies. Despite grandma’s relentless requests to try her famous stuffing, it is OK to say no.

Finally, Wolff encourages everyone to keep a food journal, especially during the holidays. A food journal helps with planning as well as recapping your day. For best results, write down what you plan on eating before you eat it. This may help you make better food choices. However, if you overindulge, go back and correct what you wrote in the journal to keep yourself accountable. If you are disappointed with the food choices you made for the day, accept them and move on. Forgive yourself and commit to doing better at the next meal. One meal doesn’t ruin everything, so take it one meal at a time.

Here are a few tips for surviving a holiday party with a buffet of snacks:

  • Never arrive hungry. Have a healthy snack beforehand or when you get there and drink a glass of water.
  • Focus on the company and not on the food. Take this opportunity to catch up with guests and keep yourself busy.
  • Eat mindfully by taking smaller bites and chewing slowly. This will give your brain time to fully enjoy these special holiday foods as well as recognize when your stomach is full.
  • Limit your alcohol, which is high in calories. Also, too much alcohol can impact your ability to think clearly when it comes to making food choices.
  • Bring your own healthy dish. This gives you a food option and the chance to share with your friends.
  • When you are cooking, limit your taste-testing. Many times we snack while cooking and then eat with everyone else. This could equal a double serving, so keep it to a minimum!
  • You are not alone. Odds are there are others at the party who are watching what they eat too. Become fast friends with those people and build a support team.

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