With the holiday season in full swing, managing the stress of traveling, holiday parties and gift-giving can be a challenge. Throw into the mix large holiday meals, hot cocoa and sugar cookies, Grandma’s pecan pie, and Thanksgiving leftovers, and you have a plate full of temptation.
So how can you make healthful choices during the holiday? Let’s look at a few tips that can help you manage your weight or a chronic illness, or simply continue a healthful lifestyle:
▪ Portion control. Be mindful about the food you are putting on your plate. Use smaller plates, smaller serving spoons and start by filling your plate with healthier options like fruits and vegetables.
▪ Out of sight, out of mind. Put the leftovers away immediately after the meal and have conversations away from the kitchen so you are less tempted to continue snacking.
▪ Don’t buy it. If it’s not in your home, you can’t eat it. Avoid the dessert and candy aisles at the grocery store to prevent the temptation of bringing them home.
▪ Find time for other activities. Not only could these help burn calories, they also can take your mind off the food in the kitchen. Take a walk after a holiday meal, pull out the board games, have Just Dance competitions, or walk in place while watching football on TV.
▪ Limit alcohol. Remember, alcohol has calories, too. Having “just a few drinks” each time can add up to thousands of calories over the holidays. Limit yourself to one or two each week.
▪ Plan ahead. Ask what will be served at holiday parties ahead of time, and then offer to bring a healthful side dish so you are guaranteed an option.
▪ Stay on schedule. Don’t arrive hungry or skip breakfast the morning of a holiday party or meal. Staying on a regular eating pattern and having a small snack beforehand can prevent cravings and overeating.
▪ Cooking substitutions. Little changes go a long way in your favorite recipes: use canola or olive oil instead of butter, cut back on sugar or try artificial sweeteners, use herbs and spices instead of salt, and try low-fat products to reduce the amount of calories for the dish.
We can all make little changes to help ourselves stay healthy during the holidays. Be mindful and choose to take control. Enjoy this season of giving, when spending time with family and friends is the most important, not the food.
Laura Combs is a registered dietitian who works with outpatients in the Nutrition Education department at Baptist Health Lexington.