This time of year marks the start of the wave of parties, meals and other events that we have come to cherish. While parties are great and large family meals are delicious, we have to keep focus on what is really important through this season. Family and friends are important and so is our health. It has been said that the average American consumes as many as 4,500 calories at Thanksgiving dinner alone! OUCH! The average American also manages to gain one to two pounds during the holidays which unfortunately become “permanent” after the holidays are over. Many experts suggest that around the middle of November switch your focus from losing weight to maintain and allow yourself a few treats and then begin with renewed fervor at the New Year focusing on weight loss
Make holiday memories not holiday bulges! Create non-food projects to do with your children or grandchildren such as; playing games, making ornaments, a walking tour of the holiday lights or make wreaths. Start traditions of service; prepare a care package for a needy family, volunteer to serve meals at a community center, find ways to help someone else have a good holiday that might not have family.
If you have been asked to bring a dish to a meal, or are the host or hostess for a celebration, prepare a healthy dish that you know you can comfortably eat and is something others would enjoy as well. Include lots of vegetables, leans meats, seafood, whole grains and lower fat or fat-free dairy when planning your holiday menus. Make light appetizers instead of deep-fried batter encrusted items. Whole grain crackers, with reduced fat cheeses, vegetables with light yogurt dips, shrimp cocktails and fruit kabobs. Avoid serving appetizers which are either fried, or contain high fat sauces and gravies.
Skinny down those mashed potatoes by using skim milk, fat-free chicken broth or fat free sour cream instead of whole milk and butter. Eliminate the crust on your pumpkin pie and substitute egg whites (2) for a whole egg in recipes. Topping cakes with fresh fruits or a dusting of powdered sugar instead of using the traditional heavy frosting will trim down the amount of calories and fat consumed at a holiday dessert table. Enjoy that delicious roasted turkey without the skin and eliminate saturated fat. Make gravy early as possible and chill in the fridge and then skim off the extra fat and also eliminate a of saturated fat! Trim the dressing down by using less bread and more fruits and vegetables in the dressing. Substitute low-fat broth or applesauce for butter.
One of the worse things you can do is to skip meals to indulge later! Before attending that amazing holiday feast, try munching on raw veggies or eating a piece of fruit before your arrival and to make it a goal to not arrive feeling famished which will set you up to over-indulge. Get a smaller plate, if available, and look over the buffet table before adding any food to your plate. Select only your most favorite dishes and avoid any that you feel are just so-so. Balance any rich high calorie selections with extra vegetables and fruits which are simply prepared without heavy sauces or cream.
Eat smaller portions. Sit down, relax and chew your food. Savor the flavors of the season and you’re your brain time (about 20 minutes) to know you have had enough food. Enjoy the company around you and focus on conversations and not the food. Eat only until you feel satisfied. Do not eat until you feel stuffed. Plan an after dinner walk, make it a family tradition! Just a short 10-15 walk can help relieve the stress of the holidays and help offset over-indulgences. If you know you will be having a large meal or had a large meal, go smaller on the next meal. Remember it takes an extra five hundred calories a day for seven days to gain one pound. One slice of pumpkin pie or cake will not derail your entire week! Be proactive and keep weighing yourself during the holidays. Any weight gain you see, stop it and do not let it creep further up!
Planning is the key to success for the holiday season. Create a plan. Know what you are going to eat and how you are going to react to the temptations of the season. Visualize yourself in situations and walk through various scenarios and prepare your mind for what you will be facing food wise. Try, and I dare say try, to keep sugary food intake to a minimum. Sugar tends to make you want more sugar so eat sugared foods sparingly. Take only a half a serving instead of a full serving and savor it! Remember you can say “no” when you are offered something to eat or drink that you know isn’t a good choice. Be assertive and be your own advocate!
Avoid alcoholic drinks as much as possible. Alcohol and its effects can encourage you to over-indulge and most drinks are full of calories and sugar. Eat your calories, don’t drink them! Choose to drink extra water to flush out the rich calorie laden foods of the holidays! Alcohol can leave you feeling dehydrated, chase that alcoholic drink with a big glass of water!
Get your daily eight hours of rest. Being tired does affect your eating! A lack of rest can easily derail your weight loss plans and plunge you into a downward spiral of making poor food choices and avoiding the gym!
The bottom line— the holidays are about enjoying family and friends and not only about food. Focus on people and not food! Keep moving during the upcoming holiday season and celebrate in a healthy way. Enjoy everything in healthy moderation and face the New Year with a renewed sense of a commitment to greater health and a greater sense of control over food. It’s all about lifestyle changes, not diets.