Contributed by Courtney Nalivka, Licensed and Registered Dietitian
Nutritionist at Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital
The holiday season is upon us and by the time you read this article we will have already made it through two major holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Whew! But now we have Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, then Easter. Who said the Holiday Season was only Thanksgiving and Christmas? If you think about it, there are at least seven months out of the year that have a major holiday involved and that usually means sweet treats and delicious delicacies are looming nearby. This article will help you pull back on the reigns but yet still be able to enjoy the upcoming holidays, because let’s face it, they’re not going anywhere.
On average, we gain 1-2 pounds during the holiday season. This doesn’t seem like much weight but this weight is difficult to lose and accumulates over the years to become 5-10 pounds and so on. We can avoid these excess pounds by practicing some mindful eating strategies.
It is important NOT to skip meals throughout the day in order to save all the calories for the party or event at the end of the day. Skipping meals results in overeating. Start the day out with breakfast and be sure to include good sources of fiber such as fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes and whole grains throughout the day. Fiber rich foods will keep us fuller for longer periods of time and are low in calories.
Holiday gatherings tend to have large amounts of food that are easily accessible for seconds and even thirds. It is easy to overeat in a buffet setting as a little of lots of different foods can add up in calories. Try to choose the most nutrient-dense foods and moderate the portion sizes. This way a little treat from the dessert table at the end of the night can be worked into the meal plan.
One strategy that helps with overeating is to use a smaller plate. You can also fill half your plate with vegetables first leaving less room for the entrée and desserts. Eating a salad before the main meal can help fill up your belly and help you eat fewer calories overall. Lastly, eat slowly and chew food well. Savor those wonderful holiday foods and before you go back for seconds, wait 10 minutes. Take the time to socialize with friends and family away from the food table and you won’t be mindlessly eating.
There are many ways to modify your favorite recipes to make them healthier. One example is to use two egg whites instead of one whole egg to reduce the cholesterol in that item. You can also substitute low sodium chicken broth in your mashed potatoes instead of cream and butter. Applesauce makes for a good substitute for oil, margarine, or butter in baked goods. Choose reduced-fat cream cheese, sauces, or low-fat cheeses for salads, casseroles, or other side dishes.
When grocery shopping, be sure to fill your cart with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Sweet potatoes, winter squash, cranberries, green beans, and so on can be added to make many salad and dessert dishes not only colorful and tasty, but healthy too.
Last but not least, what’s a holiday party without a hot totty? Be sure to moderate alcohol consumption and try a spritzer to reduce calories. Don’t quench your thirst with an alcoholic drink. Try a non-alcoholic drink first and then enjoy a drink. Moderation is one drink per day for a female and two drinks per day for a male. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol.
Finally, make sure to incorporate some physical activity into the holiday season. Go for a walk after dinner to spend time with friends and family, or catch a class at the gym. Three 10 minute intervals is the same as one 30 minute interval. The key is to find activities you enjoy doing and plan those into your routine. Just get moving! Some exercise is better than no exercise.
The holidays are a time to enjoy good company, good food, and make good memories. Most likely, food is always involved. So rather than restricting yourself or feeling like you can’t enjoy the party, practice these tips above and you’ll be able to avoid those excess holiday pounds and still enjoy this wonderful time of year.
With that, have a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!