You’ve made it through Thanksgiving watching what you ate and not
gaining weight. Now, you are facing even more holiday parties and family
gatherings. It’s a good five weeks before Jan. 2 and a fresh start
on your diet.
How do you enjoy the holidays and still keep to a healthy eating regime?
The average person can gain from two to five pounds during the holidays
and most of us find it’s really hard to lose those extra pounds
come January, says Kimberlee Alvari, registered dietitian and director
of Food and Nutrition Services at Washington Hospital.
The danger comes when you don’t lose those extra pounds, she explains.
“Over the years, the weight keeps building, bringing with it the
increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other
problematic health issues.”
The holidays don’t have to be about denial. “You still can
enjoy some of the special dishes you always look forward to, but mix them
up with healthier choices so that your plate isn’t loaded down with
only high-calorie food,” Alvari says.
“Remember to manage your choices by what you love the most and in
portions that leave you just satisfied,” she adds.
Desserts can be made healthier but still delicious, or “eaten in
bites — the first bite to enjoy the treat, the second bite to satisfy
the selection and the third bite to have it linger in your mind,”
Or you can share a dessert with a friend.
It is important to focus on healthy eating during the holidays, but don’t
try to lose weight, Alvari warns. “You could set yourself up for
failure. It’s better to aim to maintain your pre-Thanksgiving weight
and then tackle additional weight loss in the new year.”
“Also, remember that it’s not just the special holiday dinner
or party that leads to weight gain, but all the days leading up to the
celebrations and the days in-between,” Alvari says. “If you
begin the season determined to enjoy yourself and also to avoid excess,
you will greet the New Year, happy, satisfied and cheery,” she adds.
Some strategies for healthy eating during the holidays:
Plan in advance: When going to a party, decide ahead of time what type of food you’ll
eat and what and how much you’ll drink. Eating a healthy snack before
you leave for the party will help control your appetite.
Eating at the event: Start with lighter appetizers such as raw veggies and salads. Look over
the entire selection before deciding what to eat; otherwise you might
end up overloading your plate. Select one or two higher-calorie favorites
from the buffet table and then step away so that you aren’t tempted
to load up your plate with other treats.
Drinking at the event: Include your drinks as part of your healthy eating strategy. If you are
watching carbohydrates, think about the carbs in sweet drinks like margaritas,
beer and eggnog. If you are diabetic, it’s critical to monitor your
blood sugar level and to be aware of the effect of alcohol.
During the holiday season: Keep moving so the pounds can’t catch up with you. Don’t
skip regular exercise and add a little more physical activity to counter
the extra calories. Exercising first thing in the morning may help start
a day of better food selections for the rest of the day.
Limit treats to one small serving a day during the holiday season, such
as cookies or a piece of candy or pie.
Treats at work can be managed by going to find 15 to 20 minutes of work
and then seeing if you are still interested or have moved on from wanting
the treat. Control temptation by keeping treats out of sight — not
on your desk or in places you frequent.
And don’t skip meals to “make room” for food later in
the day. Skipping meals almost always leads to overeating later.
When you cook: Make healthier versions of some traditional holiday appetizers or main
course dishes, and seek out new recipes for tasty healthy options. For
example, substitute light and low-fat cream cheese and sour cream for
full-fat ones in recipes. Low-fat and non-fat Greek style yogurt also
is a great substitute. Use olive oil instead of butter to cook. Instead
of chips, cut up pita bread and bake it in the oven. Serve with hummus
for a great low-fat, nutritious treat.
Finally, Alvari suggests using a smaller plate such as a nine-inch plate
instead of the standard 12-inch size. “A smaller plate holds less
food, so you can save 200 – 300 calories by reducing the plate size.
If you are hosting a party, do your guests a favor by using smaller plates.”