Turkey. Ham. Dressing. Green Bean Casserole. Cookies. Cakes. Fudge… and the list goes on.
As if the abundance of food at your family holiday gatherings isn’t enough, the festive snacks offered at the workplace and the goodies shared by neighbors make it the most indulging time of the year.
On average, we can gain a couple of pounds – and, yikes, as much as 10 - between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. The holidays account for much of a person’s annual weight gain over the course of a lifetime.
It’s no wonder we feel stuffed, want to sleep and have a hard time buttoning our pants come January 2.
How can we still eat and drink – and merrily maintain the weight - during the holidays?
Here are a few tips:
Have a light, healthy snack before going to the party. If your stomach is not starving, you are less likely to dive deep into the buffet.
Think before you eat. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish – eating a balanced meal for nourishment or tasting a little of everything being offered. Having a “meal goal” might help you manage your selections and portions.
Start with the healthy stuff. Before going after the fatty meats and starches, have a small plate of vegetables, fresh fruit, salads and mixed raw nuts. Avoid the sauces or dips because they are often loaded with fats.
Take smaller portions. Instead of scooping out two serving spoons of mashed potatoes, just do one. If you want more later, you can always come back. (You might find, though, that you are stuffed and don’t want the second helping.)
Create food speedbumps. Use a smaller plate. Take only a few of the foods being offered and eat them first. When finished, you have reached the first speed bump. Then, you can decide whether to move along the feasting road.
Eat slowly. When lots of food is present, our minds go into survival overload. We naturally want to eat fast to get back to the remaining food. Take your time. Talk with family and friends between bites. Not only will you enjoy the taste of every bite, you will curb your propensity to binge eat.
Watch what you drink. Sodas and alcohol are loaded with calories. Even if you like a nice glass of wine with your meal, drink lots of water. It helps with digestion and can curb your appetite.
Step away. We have a natural tendency to take a long nap after a hearty meal. If you want to get rid of those extra calories you consumed, go outside or to the mall for a brisk walk.
Retreat and adapt your meal schedule. If you overindulge yourself (and who doesn’t at the holidays?), that’s ok. Your body will need time to digest that big holiday meal. You won’t need lots of food for your next meal or two. You also should wait to eat until you feel hungry again. Your body will tell you when it’s ready.
If you want more tips, the American Heart Association has an excellent downloadable Holiday Healthy Eating Guide.
If you need help with healthy eating habits, you can contact the Johnson Memorial Weight Loss and Wellness Center.